Rietta Wallenda: A poem by Maddie Woda

By Maddie Woda


Rietta Wallenda

Rietta Wallenda plunged 54 stories
to her untimely death on August
fifth, 1963 and I wish only
to ask what she saw on her descent.

A performer in name and art, perhaps
she glimpsed spangled costumes and
loose glitter, her name in lights
as she fell through the air.

Maybe she saw the farm house
of her childhood and the
rusty garden hose that doubled
as her first ever tightrope,
strung between the two maples
who shook their frosted heads at her daring.

I can’t imagine she saw the
wooden desks and chalky air of
high school, slamming lockers and
passed notes. One does not glimpse
detention, attention, retention in
her final moments.

Perhaps she saw you, face upturned
and mouth agape. Hat in one hand,
the other shading the sun from
your eyes, you would have stretched
out your arms to catch her if only
you had recognized that
this wasn’t part of the show.

Maddie Woda is an emerging writer from Columbus, Ohio, currently studying English at Columbia University in New York City. She is a member of the Columbia Review and has pieces in Reverberations, ANGLES, and Clementine Online.

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