Karen Holmberg

The Aerialist

Raised to watch
for pilgrims in pond
water or among stars, I detect
a busy ordering in the peripheries
of my sight, and catch dust mote legs
shuttling silk from a diminutive
abdomen, plumply angled as a full
chignon. You float through the air, aswing
on your trapeze, performing
a dangling ritual dance
off the temple of my glasses, then
swimming up, anchor me by
hypotenuse to a line
so fine I must assume
it exists, a mathematical
if/then whose idea I ride to the pleated
lamp shade’s edge. You rock
in the gale of my breathing, and
I think of Philippe Petit, running fluid
back and forth on steel cable taut
between Twin Towers, inner ear telegraphing
to the mind the thousand
incremental shifts of flexing pole required
to hold his center of mass above
the dividing line, to keep spinning peril
into joy. It would be something
to write a poem like that, whose thought
flowed like current between two
charged points, or to sit in balance upon
a line and draw up to one
from a quarter mile below the world’s roar.

Karen Holmberg
“The Aerialist” first appeared in Quarterly West, Issue 60, 2005.