Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Walkin' the High Wire

Just back from two weeks of 24/7 poetry writing at Ragdale in Chicago. New projects, new poems, exhibition plans, more news to come. But for now...

Some of you know me as a poet. Some of you know me as the Executive Director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation that supports arts and culture in Philadelphia. A few of you even know me as both.

Well, this morning at the annual conference of Delaware Valley Grantmakers (along with Philadelphia's nonprofit partners) I came out as a poet, big time, when I had the privilege of kicking off the conference with a poem. They asked me and three other poets to respond to the conference theme, "Holding Together in High Wire Times." So of course, me being me, I started with some research on the definition of 'balance' which included "an object that is stationary."

I started thinking about whether, in the nonprofit world, the philanthropic world, or even our own lives, is that something we want to aspire to? Or do we just keep walking the high wire?


Find it the young men, their low-slung jeans
and unstrung shoes, shuttling down the handrails.

Above, the El expresses itself down Broad Street,
expresses us up to to the high floor hustle

where the window washer, swaying on his twin pivots
takes a swipe at clarity.

On 5th Street, she lifts the steel window shade,
sweeps the daybreak, dust swirling to the Centro rhythm

as the 47 spins its wheels through the Market,
awnings unfurled in the commotion of commerce.

No point of stillness in this city circus --

rapid transit of mass and weight and gravity
the push and pull that deflects our progress

diverts us with forces that are not enough
and too much, and we feel

too much and not enough, but stay anyway,
step out each day into air,

risk the fall, are carried away
ride this turbulent City.

(c) Beth Feldman Brandt 2011

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