Grace aux épaules

(For Alain Robert)

Burj Khalifa, Eiffel, Willis, Taipei 101:

their names are enough to give you vertigo.

Iron fists, twisting swords, taunting cartels –


this is not the Verdon,

it’s a quarter mile of glass and steel.

Necks craned, we scan the tartan grid,


our guts churning like fresh cement;

strong fingers, permanently bent, grip articulations.

It’s rare to see a man defy a stainless sky,


ignore the yawning void, not every day

someone smiles outside your window

on the ninety-seventh floor.


He skims up curtain walls, counts stories

like the months he lost in comas,

impossible reflections in his eyes,


clears the vertex, lifts his arms

above a blaze of urban lights.

Sometimes police arrest him, but this won’t deter him.


Our wounded superhero doesn’t care.

He climbs so he can be reborn

and doesn’t need eight legs – just two, and good shoes.


(First published in The Sunlight Press, 6 June 2017.)