The rebel poet

   I am not a daredevil; I am the writer in the sky he screamed to the people gawking 1,350 feet below him. He knew that number well, studied it carefully because he knew that there was difficulty in ascending to walk with the Gods, but it was easy to fall back down to Earth.

   Before taking another step, he looks down from the South Tower. Amassed beneath is a crowd of a hundred, maybe two. Around half of the audience are hoping that he makes it across, the other is destruction voyeurs hoping to watch the man flirting with the clouds tumble to his descent. Philippe, do you need water asked the man wearing a helmet. Philippe took the water bottle, drank a bit before using the rest to wash his face and hands. Let’s go Philippe said to Jean-Francois, who has now taken off his helmet and is waving it back and forth to grab the attention of the people standing on Dey Street. Philippe knew that this was going to be his only chance to traipse between the World Trade Centers, he was going to have to make it a show for the people.

With Jean-Francois on his way down to the street to take photographs, Philippe recognized that he was completely alone. All he had was a 26 foot 55-pound balancing pole, the thin buffalo-skin soles of his slippers, and an inch-thick steel wire to protect him from certain death. He picked up the pole, moved it around, up and down to get used to its weight. He wanted to feel it between his fingers, allow it to be an extension of his body.

   Philippe takes a step with his left foot. His first step towards apotheosis of humanity. He feels his toes gently lay first on the steel beam, his soles follow behind. He must hope that his feet cooperate, his pole cooperates, his beam cooperates. He walks delicately against the overcast backdrop of billowing masses and steel beams, of heights no mortal man is supposed to rise to. At the center of the rope, for this moment, Philippe is the tallest man standing on the precipice of the Earth.

   He refuses to look down, instead only staring up above. It is in the atmosphere that he believes he can find the answers to all of the questions of the universe. Philippe does what he must do, crosses his legs and sits down carefully balancing himself onto the entangled steel wire. He allows it to settle into the elbow of his feet, digging through the delicate sides of his shoes until he takes a deep breath and sits high above the world.

   Above him flies a mechanical bird, made of blended steel and aluminum roaring at 85 decibels. As his chest heaves, Philippe finds himself in a battle against the wind, needing to re-adjust himself with every heave of his chest. How can you be so graceful in the air? Am I the one invading your space asks Philippe.  Philippe hesitates to move his pole, shifting his entire body weight underneath, twisting his shoulders and legs and feet, until his right leg is dangling off the wire and he is staring straight above.

   No longer accompanied by anything overhead, Philippe inhales, then gags on the leftover sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from the plane above. A cough causes his body to convulse, shaking the rope. He feels his pulse quickening, sweat droplets forming around his fingertips soaking the masking tape on his balancing pole. Philippe compensates by shifting his leg back onto the wire, although he knows that he is pressing his luck playing God above all of these people. Fuck it, if men were not supposed to fly then so be it, let the gods in the air above me, let the gods in the air below me, let the gods in my feet fail me. Let me be thrown down to Earth. A gust of wind rips in between the buildings, staggering the rope back and forth. Philippe and Jean-Francois were prepared for this; they studied how squalls shake the towers hovering above the city of dreams. The rope bounced just a few inches before stabilizing. Startled, Philippe once again feels for the steel rope between the soles of his shoes, waiting for his toes to find their grip before allowing his soles to gain their balance.

   He looks straight ahead, a simpler task to just make it across the rope to the other tower. Waiting for him on the other side are a bunch of people, cops, firemen, waiting to help him take his last step across. He closes his eyes, whispering to himself I am a skywriter, today I am no fallen angel. Now only a foot away from the edge, arms reach out to entangle him, bring him down, but Philippe takes two steps back, just out of their grasp.

   Philippe looks back up at the sky; I am the rebel poet, I have risen with these towers waltzing upon a thread he says. Burning under a ray of sunlight, Philippe pirouettes on the thin line and starts stepping one foot after the other once again towards the middle, 1350 feet above the ground. Voices scream at him from the North Tower, If you do not come down, we are going to take you out. Philippe lays down on the gesticulating rope, listening to the sounds below him. He can hear every conversation on Dey Street, paying attention to each word spoken. He stares towards heaven, drinking in the atmosphere, a subject on the divine level.

Garrett CarlsonComment