Poem: Overture in the French Style

Overture in the French Style by E. A. Gale. From the collection "Northern Music", J. D Smith editor.

A worthy portrait of the transporting effects of a live performance. This author uses the image of a high-wire walker to convey tension and release in a performance by Glenn Gould, the chances he takes, as listeners wonder where he is going with his interpretation, fearing for his "safety".

This tension is released as he returns again to familiar territory. The poem's listener is transported, momentarily, as Gould "steps out, a daredevil", "releasing us in a flash/ from our mortal selves for full moments." As "the rapture ends", "we are on our own again, having to find our way," "mortal again", "grasping for the platform and safety."

He seems a reckless high-wire walker,
this Glenn Gould,
and he bids us to follow him
as he steps from the safety of the platform
out onto the inch thin wire.
He proceeds, we think, with faltering steps,
teasing, only pretending we think,
that he has lost the thread of it,
pretending that his usual brilliance was a lie,
that one false step will be catastrophic,
and we are giddy to be teased so.

That is, until we reach the middle of the wire,
the point of no return where the risks of falling,
going back, staying or moving forward are the same,
and we begin to think
that maybe this is not Glenn's usual tease after all,
that this is one trick too many even for him,
and we have the heart-stopping fear
that he will bobble and
pull us down with him
into an abyss.

That is, until we detect a certain slyness in his step,
some footwork on the wire a bit too clever,
which leads us to suspect that he
knows exactly where he is going and, further,
that he has done this trick a thousand times,
an d before we can anticipate, tempos accelerate
and he steps out, a daredevil
in a multilevel display,
releasing us in a flash
from our mortal selves for full moments.

That is, until in the next heartbeat, the rapture ends,
and we are on our own again, having to find our own way,
slowly, stepping along the wire,
mortal again,
breathless,
and grasping for the platform
and safety.

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