The strung wire shrieks its tension to the rocks and foam below
as bloodied fingers scrabble up dripping stones;
the clothes whipped by fire-fed winds
from torches they've made to light the spectacle.
It's never successes they seek --
the graceful conquering of fear and gravity,
followed by reluctant applause --
they pray miscalculation:
a single step that takes a body from the line
and drops it to the hurling water;
limbs splintering on outcrops,
hands reaching vainly for nothing.
That's the real show,
and the audience leaves
with a smug grasp of satisfied horror.
I've seen the falls:
water thrusting through faults,
tearing new channels from the bedrock,
rushing to the precipice and shouting its way over.
I've seen them string that wire from crag to crag;
nothing below but fractured rock and thunder
and waterlogged bone.
I've seen men hunger for that height...
watched them climb
heard that scream above the torrent
and imagined the struggle beneath...
I have never dreamed to fly.
My hands will not fit those cracks in the wet cliff
but they will goad me to ascend
like the rest...
I will forget.
I will lose my faith in solid ground
and ache for colder air above the river...
I will force myself to walk the wire
aim for more attention than I wanted
lose my way at the last
and add my salt to the falls...
And they will gasp
and wait for the next one.
Hey, it's a ginormous metaphor!
Yeah, you can all roll your eyes now.
Briefly, it's ambition, lack of same, and humanity's seemingly inborn desire to gloat at others' failures. I'd say more, but I don't think I need to spell this one out.
Interesting that German has a word for it, though.