Lost Balloons

There is nothing more lonely than a lost balloon.
I once let go of my balloon
in my mother’s favorite shoe store,
and I cried and I cried
until a man brought out a ladder
and he carried it back down to me
and tied it around my wrist
and told me gently,
“Now don’t let it fly off again.”

I didn’t cry because I loved the balloon,
although we’d been together many hours now
and I had grown quite fond.
It was blue, made of latex,
filled with helium so it soared
and not the cast-off breath
of exhaling human lungs.
I cried because it was wedged
up in the department store rafters,
unloved and alone,
doomed to shrivel down to nothing
in a small, unseen corner of the world.

When I see balloons flying up into the sky
my heart breaks,
a porcelain sliver,
to see something so light and carefree
hurtling towards something so
infinite and terrifying,
without anything to tether it back down to earth
and without hope of return.

We try so hard to hold tight to their strings
but at every carnival or fair
in a moment of rapture or distraction,
you’ll witness one plucked from a child’s hand
by a cruel, thoughtless breeze,
and tossed up to a place from which
no ladder can return it.

It hurts to let such a fragile thing go.

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