I was no young wire-walker
out of a Barnum sideshow.
I taught music, turned the handle
like a monkey for the organist.
A not-so nubile sixty three and soon
for the women’s workhouse, I rolled
the barrel out, scraped the river bottom
with the pitched rim of it.
Good oak and iron
to protect me from the drop,
a duck-feather mattress
to protect me from the oak and iron.
I took the slow water, where the cat had
embarked, tumbled, been rescued with
a single scratch. That river took my barrel
with a bob to the edge I never saw coming.
I considered a further stanza, here,
about the fall, the falls,
but it would have been
four lines of trailing scream.
Not that anybody heard me,
with the roar of the water.
The rescue boaters broke me out,
before the fug did what the drop hadn’t.
Would I do it again, they always ask;
come to me with cascades I could try.
I sit here rooted to the stage,
let them pick their favourite. Tell them go fly.
Annie Taylor was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel
barrel ass – to charge headlong
Simon Williams (www.simonwilliams.info) has eight published collections, his latest being a co-authored pamphlet with Susan Taylor, The Weather House (www.indigodreams.co.uk/williams-taylor/4594076848), which has also toured in performance. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013, founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet and is currently developing a one-man poetry show, Cosmic Latte.