Quotes from “Let the Great World Spin” Colum McCann

“One foot on the wire-his better foot, the balancing foot.  First he slid his toes, then his sole, then his heel.  The cable nested between his big and second toes for grip.  His slipper were thin, the soles made of buffalo hide.  He paused there a moment, pulled the line tighter by the strength of his eyes.  He played out the aluminum pole along his hands.  The coolness rolled across his palm.  The pole was fifty pounds, half the weight of a woman.  She moved on his skin like water.

With a curve of his left finger he was able to tighten his right-hand calf muscle.  The little finger played out the shape of his shoulder.  It was the thumb that held the bar in place.  He tilted upward right and the body came slightly left.  The roll in the hand was so tiny no naked eye could could see it. His mind shifted space to receive his old practiced self.  No tiredness in his body anymore.  He held the bar in muscle memory and in one flow went forward.

What happened then was that, for an instant almost nothing happened.  He wasn’t even there.  Failure didn’t even cross his mind.  It felt like a sort of floating.  He could have been in the meadow.  His body loosened and took on the shape of the wind.  The play of the shoulder could instruct his ankle.  His throat could soothe his heel and moisten the ligaments at this ankle.  A touch of the tongue against the teeth could relax the thigh.  His elbow could brother his knee.  If he tightened his neck he could feel it correcting in his hip.  At his center he never moved.  He thought his stomach as a bowl of water.  If he got it wrong, the bowl would right itself. He felt for the curve of the cable with the arch and then sole of his foot.  A second step and a third.  He went out beyond the first guy lines, all of him in synch.

Within seconds he was pureness moving, and he could do anything he liked.  He was inside and outside his body at the same time, indulging in what it meant to belong to the air, no future, no past, and this gave him the offhand vaunt to his walk.  He was carrying his life from one side to the other.  On the lookout for the moment when he wasn’t even aware of his breath.

The core reason for al of it was beauty.  Walking was a divine delight.  Everything was rewritten when he was up in the air.  New things were possible with the human form.  It went beyond equilibrium.

He felt for a moment uncreated.  Another kind of awake.”

Jennifer Nugent

  • April 27th, 2010
  • Jenn Nugent


  • I like this text!…and the other posts too…an image has come to my mind, of a fonambulist, walking in the tightrope. How the body finds how to accomodate its weight into the feet, standing on the small surface, saving the balance. There´s only one way to avoid the fall from the cable, with exact weight shift in the exact time- rhythm-, and keeping all the time the connections of body-hit-proportion-space into the feet again, into the tightrope again, having a clear, no hesitant, sense of direction.

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