. the balloon
for marie ponsot, one of the best poets & the most nurturing of professors.
By the ditches
in a small town near Muenster,
where German poppies grow
like big red fruits
in the sandy mouths and cracks -
my mother and I walk the dirt road
while the sky is still a light blue.
We walk until our legs are jangly
and a farmer's cart draws near us.
The farmer waves to us and stops;
we climb aboard.
The horse that pulls us
The road forks
as we enter a dark wood, trembling
before a fallen stone house
and the debris
of its eighteenth-century stable.
From a hickory branch, a bridle
swings. Below, lies a worm-eaten trough;
wood shavings litter the ground.
One window frame is rusted, cracked
where the glass
caved in. From a thicket, a dove
woos us, invisible,
We leave the shadows
and return to a dying sky,
when an air-filled elephant bursts through
some whitewashed clouds. This balloon
is grey and whiskered.
A carpet of velvet red
covers its back and head;
gold stars are sewn in -
it's gold-embossed and tasseled.
Swaying like a potted plant,
a basket dangles beneath it.
The balloon floats up and away
above fields of wheat and clover.
A hush descends. The farmer
whips his horse
until the sideboards rattle.
Stones and dust fly from us
until they hit the wheels and crackle.
We follow the balloon
with all of our might,
while bulls and cows
bulge into fences, inhaling us,
We drive on
until the elephant is lost
among the trees
that line the horizon.
The horse slows to a trot;
his head is low and hanging.
The sky darkens. Slowly, stars appear
where the clouds aren't moving.
The farmer takes us
home, unhitches his wagon.
. home . close window .