THE ESCAPE ARTISTS
Why was there more than one of us?
Because it was more shocking
when we both exploded from the safe,
unharmed if short of breath,
dressed in sparkling blue uniforms
to signify our amazing natures.
Other times we’d plunge into water
in chains, stay in the icy deep
for several minutes beyond
what we should’ve been capable of.
When we emerged it was like exiting
the underworld, coming across as fallen
angels who didn’t need anything
on this earth, much less the applause
that avalanched over us. They didn’t
see the tricks we had developed,
the broken links, hidden keys,
the practice of bending, pulling muscles.
Why would they imagine this hard work
when their life is about not enduring
pain or danger? Sitting at desks
they quit if they feel eye strain
from staring at the computer screen,
would rather drop change
in a vending machine than walk
to the fridge for a carrot or orange.
We suffer so you don’t have to,
is what we think. As an example
of near drowning we are the sacrifice
you won’t have to make now,
to short circuit your life with big flashes
of lightning, risks that could suffocate
you if you guess wrong. To us,
the important thing is the process—
the lack of oxygen, choking on water.
This is where we’re alive—not
when you salute us, but when we
praise ourselves with deaths you can’t see.
—from Rattle #36, Winter 2011