Filled with fear, unreasonably ashamed
Of fear itself—a warped, delinquent source,
Unwilling for such culprits to be named
I sought in vain for some no-fault divorce,
As if my cowardice could be explained
Away by glib-tongued advocates of thought,
But neither age nor death may be contained,
Imaginary pleadings count for naught.
This court of last resort is now a tomb—
In clenched paralysis and dry-mouthed dread
I pass upon myself the verdict’s doom,
Then from its dock, in chains, am roughly led.
Our fears breed vertigo to soar like kites,
A Praying Mohawk stalking girder heights.
Of the fears that we all face, especially when ill or near death, I have nothing to say other than what I have written above. The ‘Praying Mohawks’ were (and are) a tribe of footloose North America Indians who originated in Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada. They have the extraordinary ability to walk among the narrow girders of skyscraper construction sites working as riveters without any apparent concern of vertigo or fear of falling. Their cold-blooded, even jaunty approach to working hundreds of feet in the air with only a narrow girder beneath their feet, inspired awe and jealousy (they were paid exceptionally well) from other construction site workers. To read more about them, seek out Joseph Mitchell’s essay ‘The Mohawks in High Steel’ (first published in The Atlantic in 1939) on the internet or in Mitchell’s collected essays, ‘Up In The Old Hotel’, published by Vintage Books (1993).