Back Catalogue #10 The Balloon (1997)

Photo by Robertgombos, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

[This poem, written partly in Brazil, partly in the UK, was one of my first to attempts to use lined free verse]

The Balloon

Did

rubber planters conspire

to extract the child’s smile

by this blue fruit-shaped

sac inflated with human breath?

Or

does its smileless good humour

respond merely to a general instinct

for rotund pliant breath-filled things?

But

if you try to clasp it

it doesn’t yield itself

with the same responsive ease as

other air pockets;

But

needs balancing on the fingertips

And

reacts if touched too roughly

as if scalded

or

scratched

with a squeal

and

we respond in kind

a sympathetic wince

And

if you puncture it

it deflates in an instant

to a limp

and

valueless rag

like something with its spring

snapped

the pinprick exaggerated

to a gash by the eagerness

of the air to rush out of it.

Yet 

if you try to keep it

– a memento 

of a birthday party –

safe

in a corner of the room

surely but quietly

it expires

through the knotted nipple at its root

shrivels wrinkles depreciates

to a more richly rubbery smelling

but 

altogether inferior article

less inviting to touch

but

less sensitive also

*

A balloon

is something

whose cheerfulness

is always

tense and over-inflated

fated to explode or sag

like a star

And

a happy face painted on it

appears at first human

but

ridiculous

then human

but

morbid

for the wasted

and

stagnating effort

invested in it.

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