Many Feet Going
by R. G. Evans
What they don't tell you
is that it's a tightrope walk
and you will be nude, body
all counterweights and pendulums.
They give you a parasol
(too small, a little frayed),
a bright red nose that makes you easy
to track, and a time limit (too short).
If you find the rope is slack,
that's normal. Keep going.
You're young and strong.
Don't be distracted
by the piles of bones below
(Boob! You thought you were
the first?)—but they are:
waxy winged, chained to rocks,
gnawed through the ribs by raptors.
Your rope has been greased
by the soles of many feet going
one way, all the while
believing they have a choice,
believing they might make it.
"Many Feet Going" reprinted by permission of the poet. Appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, an anthology of 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.
Interview with R. G. Evans
How did you come to write “Many Feet Going”?
The image of the tragicomic clown gingerly navigating his way on a tightrope over the abyss came to me after reading Beckett’s great Waiting for Godot. As I said at a reading in support of After Shocks, I didn’t realize “Many Feet Going” actually was a poem about recovery until I submitted it to the anthology. Now, I can’t see it any interpretation for it other than a way of looking at that precarious path.
How did writing this poem affect your recovery?
Well, as I said, the path is precarious. In the poem there are two primary images: the clown on the tightrope and the bones below of those who tried unsuccessfully to make the passage before him. Sometimes I’m the clown, sometimes I’m the pile of bones.
Photo of R. G. Evans by Mark Hillringhouse
Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped "Many Feet Going" come to life?
Once I read Godot, the image of man as a tragic hobo-clown became firmly lodged in my consciousness. Then I began to imagine how we often try to achieve goals that are just beyond our reach or forbidden to us in some way (hence the bones of Icarus and Prometheus lying under the tightrope in the poem), and the tightrope walk proceeded logically from that premise.
Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
I always return to the classics: Shakespeare, Yeats, Rilke, to name a few. Contemporary poets whom I admire greatly are Stephen Dunn, Sharon Olds, Charles Simic, and Russell Edson. I recently discovered the twin poets Matthew and Michael Dickman, and highly recommend them, especially to adolescent readers.
What are you working on now?
Since the very recent publication of my collection Overtipping the Ferryman, I’ve been working on a collection of poems inspired by Cyril Connolly’s book An Unquiet Grave. I felt a very personal resonance with that book in the same way I did when I first read Waiting for Godot and its epigrammatic style really lends itself to writing prompts for poems.
R.G. Evans’s poems, fiction, and reviews have appeared in The Literary Review, Pif Magazine, MARGIE, and Weird Tales among others. His book Overtipping the Ferryman won the 2013 Aldrich Prize and was published by Aldrich Press. He writes, teaches, and sings in southern New Jersey.