Today's poem is by Doretta Wildes

The Red Balloon
              for A. C.

Like a shrill or clash smack in the middle of matins
she scuds into your cupola, fast tracks
then just hangs. You shrug, eyes up, and wince;
return to packs of eighth notes like thumbtacks.

But there she holds, a whole note on the ceiling
flush as a trill, counterpoint to complacence,
her poppy face’s contretemps feeling
like a throat out of tune or a verb out of tense.

For years, she disappears. Then, menace or manna,
floats home to that itch past reaching — there.
Inopportunist, scarlet hosanna,
watching with alien interest, out-of-bounds care

as no other flash in anyone else’s pan.
Winter approaches. The light in the nave is weak
when she returns. More delicate than
the surface of a dream, her crimson cheek.

>From what red tent did she escape?  A circus?
She floats as if her tropical heart will break
into a million vermillions, then reverses,
floating austere as a swan or a throne by Blake

taking you where the sky’s already been scooped
out of its box like ice cream at the blank top
where the cliff-hangers live.  One of them, old and stooped,
pulls you up until the merciful pop

and drop. Then silence ticks. You are alone.
Until you look up from your hymn one summer
and there on the pew will be your red balloon —
downsized to your size so you might become her

as you become whatever air you breathe,
your evensong off kilter,  pitched a thread
higher than the choir
                              accidental,  suspending Lethe,
toward that other river, where all the music is red.

Copyright © 2005 Doretta Wildes All rights reserved
from Cimarron Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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