“The Balloon Poem” by Steven Kapela


Children having to learn about death and loss on their own is unreasonable.
The red balloon I received after church danced from a ribbon
Looped at the end of my wrist:
What is it about plastic filled with helium
That is so enchanting to children? And why is the cherished balloon
Designed to depart
From those holding it? The ribbon’s knot came untied so unpredictably
That it floated out of my reach.
It dodged the thick power-lines and the birch trees’
White branches; it rose above the congregation,
Who were still spilling out from the vestibule.
They talked to each other, hugged, and shook hands.

The balloon flew further up.
It disappeared behind streaks of clouds.
There were so many ways of believing and I had to make
A decision. Not just to proclaim my own beliefs but
To decide on the balloon’s fate, or was it mine?

The many clouds weren’t to blame for these complications, these questions.
Nor was the priest, nor the sudden appearance of the old janitor who
Shooed me away so he could scrub the graffiti off the church’s walls,
I saw between his neck and his collar a Star of David.
But back then I just thought it was a cool-looking necklace.

It isn’t unreasonable for a child to have to learn about death and loss on their own;
They need things like balloons so they may learn
How to lower and shake their heads in grief at the people they lose.
Is it unreasonable to hold on to the voices of friends, family, and familiars
In your head after they talked to you every Sunday for years?

What about remembering them in their best clothes or shaking their hands
While they shook yours?
No, it’s not unreasonable, especially when no one told you the importance
Of considering that it wouldn’t happen again.
If no one gave you something like a balloon early on, to help remind you
That eventually you will have to let go of everything
Then that alone, is unreasonable.

Read more of Steven’s poetry here.
Photo by Levi Finley

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