Literature, Poetry
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Danger Poems

Pictured above: American acrobat, aerialist, daredevil and high wire artist Nikolas Wallenda walks a tightrope stretched directly over Niagara Falls on June 15, 2012. Image credit: Dave Pape

Chuck Fipke

I approach the world as I would face a tribe 
of cannibals clad in armour and warpaint: 
with courage enough and a readiness to trade
my shirt, trade my pants for dear life
and stand buck naked in the back-bush
of New Guinea, the Amazon and Africa,
exposed to every death, knocking at the door
of the earth as if to say, Here I am. Infest me:
let your parasites crawl under my skin
and feast awhile, for I belong to the earth.
Thus I cast myself into her deepest jungles
seeking her secrets in silt and stone: where 
her copper veins, where the laces of silver 
and gold, in which pipes her diamonds lie.
Either she will tolerate my prying, my staking
claims, or she’ll absorb and knead me
back into herself; but I’ll be damned if I peter
and play it safe—subsist to die of nothing.

Frank Cole

I crossed the Sahara on foot and camel-back.
No kind of living could knock the sand out of me after.
I put civilisation behind me, spent ten years with that year,
cutting and splicing, viewing and reviewing the miles
of footage I’d snatched from that country of death.
I should have died there. It is there I was forged.
Seven camels dropped, but I, despite all the signs, survived.
Having endured Hades, no greater crossing remains.
The eye of the Sahara still grips me in its blue whorl. 
Though such beauty will not abide us long, 
yet I will have her, and she, with her fire, will cure me
the way she cured this ancient sea.

The Great Wallenda

I keep revisiting this tightrope walk
across a gaping chasm. The tense cable 
is familiar: taut, stretched thin as hope.
I amble out and hang with God.
You might think I’ve taken these 
thousand careful steps a thousand times before,
and like a seasoned driver, I can glide along 
whilst eating and talking on the phone.
Perhaps you surmise it’s all practice: 
maybe the secret’s to imagine 
you’re just a few safe feet above ground.
But I assure you, I indulge no illusion.
Do you really think I’d turn my mind 
to football at such a sublime, ecstatic
moment in the evolutionary march?
Death is not a lady I aim to please.
Why would I walk this narrow path
if not for the crashing rush, the gnashing, 
slavering jaws of Niagara Falls, if not 
to peer down the throat of Grand Canyon?
The trick’s to take in the beauty, 
to throb with the thrill but to take it in stride, 
to let it ride over you, around you, 
but never through you like a chill. 
Be alert and beware your instincts.
Your every reflex works against you
when you’re teetering at the verge of the void.
I aim to overcome the vertiginous awe,
aware that should my ear twitch too curiously
toward some unexpected sound, or should 
a peripheral shadow cause my eye 
to jitter and that jitter trip a quake, why,
I should surely pivot and fall.
Until then, I must mind each step.
Where I stand is too profound
to pretend I’m somewhere else.

Jacques Mayol

I plunged just as deep into myself 
as into the swaying sea
and freed the dolphin sleeping
there under chains of memory.
But I sensed I was mere fathoms 
away from some lordlier creature
that kept the key to endless breath.
I longed to possess that gift,
enough to feel inklings
of metamorphosis
tingle through my limbs;
not that any webbing 
ever grew between my toes,
but tired of relentless gravity,
fed up with the terrestrial plod, 
I dreamt such changes.
I felt I had my finger
on an evolutionary trigger,
that one day I’d inhale and have 
all I’d ever need of this world.

Asa Boxer’s poetry has garnered several prizes and is included in various anthologies around the world. His books are The Mechanical Bird (Signal, 2007), Skullduggery (Signal, 2011), Friar Biard’s Primer to the New World (Frog Hollow Press, 2013), Etymologies (Anstruther Press, 2016), and Field Notes from the Undead (Interludes Press, 2018). Boxer is also a founder of and editor at The Secular Heretic.


  1. I really enjoyed these poems, especially Chuck Fipke and Frank Cole. Good stuff.

    I also regularly publish poetry on The Chained Muse, where we strive to publish stuff that strives from a modern classical style. So I’m happy to see this kind of stuff published here at the Secular Heretic.

    Great initiative.

  2. Sarah Engelhard says:

    The Greeat Wallenda

    It takes the breath away. How life could be when “where I stand, is too profound to pretend I am somewhere else.”

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