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Richard Branson at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

From six to sixteen, I scoured the balloons.

I knew the one he rode—Challenger.

My parents took 10,000 pictures. All the same.

And I was dying, Richard, of the mundane

at the center of profundity. I tried seeing

the opposite, but when you’re ten,

family is an inferno. I needed answers

about drifting the heavens, having no fear,

just the wind mussing our horse-mane hair

as you broke record after record, and I couldn’t

reach you to ask the secret of your success.

Even now, I imagine you flying away on a dirigible,

a steampunk hero, goggles on, guns blazing,

yelling over your shoulder for me to keep up.

“I’ve got a private island,” you say, in case

things turn rough, “a helicopter on the roof.”

Did you know, every poem is a spaceship?

And it’s good to be in touch with the tactile,

but sometimes you need lift and separation,

which is, I think, why I rose in my seat

in the waiting room, the doctor’s blood price

heavy upon me, as I sorted the pieces of a purple

balloon for the Fiesta’s jigsaw puzzle.

Piecing the past together, here, a few broken pieces

at a time, Sir Richard. Once, I watched

you rappel down your space station

in New Mexico, your children by your side.

I remember, I continued to shout: “Take me with you!”

That time, you were on television and couldn’t

hear me. Your children grinned like satisfied

wolves at their father, the head of the first

space dynasty in the world. But I have

to tell you, Richard, like an old cat, my legs

no longer work right. I fear this may be it.

Will your weightless ship pause for me?

Will your starlit arms cast my soul

like a constellation, into space?

from Angel BonesFind more by Ilyse Kusnetz at the library

Copyright © 2019 Ilyse Kusnetz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Ilyse Kusnetz Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.