(excerpt from Tight Wire, Mother Tongue Publishing, April 2016)
funambulism. barefoot—no leather soled slippers. her big and second toe cut deep in between by braided tight wire. no props—just freehand. fully aware of her center of mass and of her core. fully aware of the shallow tank of hammerheads below. circling. fully aware of the ring master with the sawed off shotgun pointed at her back—aimed behind the curtains at her amateur heart—and the black, worn suitcase full of crumpled up cash at his feet.
the audience is unaware. they see beauty. sequins. perfection. poise.
to add to this spectacle, an assistant with a painted smile waits at the side with her children. he will add them one by one while she shifts her weight over her legs and with her arms she sways side to side with grace, even though blood drips to the tank from her feet. she pushes against gravity because. because she loves her children more than herself.
sweat cuts a new river through her clay make-up, but that too goes unnoticed.
PRAISE FOR TIGHT WIRE
“Delivered in crisp, edgy prose verse reminiscent of Ondaatje in The Collected Works of Billy The Kid or Coming Through Slaughter, and envisioning a grotesqueness like Su Croll’s in Worlda Mirth, Kerry Gilbert’s Tight Wire unravels a circus-bestiary of “women on display,” of women struggling with “amateur heart” and “new skin.” Gilbert envisions a new kind of ‘June Cleaver’ here, a woman, a mother, a lover just as restricted as her famous, mid-50s North American prototype, but also strangely new and appalling in a different way, too, and strong and frightening as well. A visceral, wonderful read.”
–John Lent author of The Path to Ardroe
“The “tight wire” is where the feminine is performed within the callousness of the culture’s expectations. Gilbert provokes the reader to imagine the violence, vulnerability, and grief that can attend the female experience of marriage, birth, and motherhood.”
–Sharon Thesen author of Oyama Pink Shade