Gray balloons —
Shrink like tinfoil balls crumpling in the hands of oxygen
Wrinkle like defeated faces, missing eyebrows and other remnants
of steel wool hair, as with chemotherapy
Sink like dying suns,
with strings dangling like visible regrets
Spread across the prairie like scattering schools of the ocean floor,
enjoying the exercise, the mental block of their spot

Pioneers in discovered lands
Setting deep, reaching roots like all successful weeds

They'll never rise again nor float on their own
They'll maybe be lifted by fingertips like a health risk, now crusty white
Released like rejected prose, trash can waiting,
to their humiliation crinkling, this their last recorded landing

An epic shower of gray balloons

Previously published in the Upper Mississippi Harvest, Fall 2001