Fare Thee Well, Red Balloon (a poem)



I was on my home this late afternoon

When I saw the red balloon.

It had been raining all week,

And there it was, dribbling on a puddle

Where the storm water grates had backfilled

With a winter’s worth of garbage.

The balloon spun for a moment, then

The wind picked up and kicked it along the curb.

I thought, this balloon is going to pop.

I hate when balloons pop. It’s not the noise,

It’s the suspense that really irks me.

But I am world weary and know better than

A child’s faith in an eternal balloon.

So I could not leave the balloon to explode

Somewhere mysteriously around a blind corner.

I had to see it through.

Plus I had had a shitty week and thought

The surprise might make me feel something,

Something besides the career numbing-burnout.

I thought, that balloon is going to pop

At any moment now. I heard the pavement

Scuff the soles of my shoes, and I saw the balloon

Skiff across the street and thought,

That balloon does not stand a chance.

The wind shifted and the balloon turned a corner.

They had been warning about flooding, but so far

The earth had sucked everything the sky had pissed down,

Except for the odd garbage-plugged sewer drain, but

In that case some lazy asshole fucked up.

I splashed through the flooded puddles

That the balloon danced over. I crashed

Through its delicate ripple kisses. I chased

It, thinking, this balloon is about to pop.

But now the red balloon had turned purple in the night,

And a dull orange when it skipped under a streetlight.

I continued my pursuit, shielding my eyes

From oncoming traffic headlights that left spots

That looked like green balloons spinning in the wind.

Those retina balloons spun and faded away,

Leaving the balloon that hopped along the asphalt.

I thought, I am going to make that fucking balloon pop.

The wind shifted for the hundredth time

And gave me the advantage to cut a corner.

I grabbed the balloon between two hands and

Held it to my chest, squeezing my teeth.

Like that would make any difference. It snapped,

It exploded, I thought my ear drums had popped.

I stumbled backwards and let the shreds

Of red plastic drop. They floated on a puddle,

But did not skip or hop. They sort of

Hung there, shriveled and impotent.

I kicked the puddle and smiled at the wind.

There we go, I thought, I knew that goddamn

Balloon would pop. I raised my arms victoriously,

But there was no one to celebrate my success, so

I let my arms drop. And as I looked around

I realized I did not recognize the block.

I had chased the balloon for three hours

Without looking up. Now what?



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