By John Kinsella b. 1963 John Kinsella
It didn’t happen in that order—
the endless growl of what will turn out to be
miniature quad and trail bikes, carried along
the top of the valley and rumbling its contents:
small kids with helmets weighing more than their heads,
ragged on by parents with crossed arms and ambition
in their eyes: round and round the drone of fun.
A country pursuit. Tracy tells me a professor
of economics at a local city university
while praising capitalism says he will only
listen to opposition if it comes from one
who eats only lentils, has given up cars
and eschews imported brands of foodstuffs. Lentils?
Contradictions aside, I’ll take him on, though
it might be hard to hear me speak above the junior
quad-bike circus performing along the hills. But hark,
I’ll tell you something unusually usual: at dusk
wandering the block with Katherine we came across
shreds of chemical-pink balloon with plastic string
attached to its tied-off umbilical cord, clearly
an escapee from a party, the child—her name
decorating the balloon with three crosses for kisses—
in tears, chasing it up into the sky, watching
it drift over the hills, her letter to the world
a single word and her mark made over. Katherine
asks if I recall the balloons her class back in England
released with school name and address and how one
floated all the way over the Channel and on to Belgium
where another child picked up the shreds and deciphered
the message and wrote back; weather balloons, “hopes
and ambitions” as Delmore says, but without doubt
or skepticism, in full expectation they will land
somewhere far away and bring joy to the finder.
I throw the shred of balloon away, fearing
an animal crossing the block in the dark,
night-eyed and keenly sampling the ground
and the air with its snout, will reread or misread
the code of chemical pinkness, and like some Red
Riding Hood in reverse, choke on the gift of chance.

Source: Poetry (May 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2010
 John  Kinsella


Australian John Kinsella has written over 20 books of poetry, as well as plays and fiction; he also maintains an active literary career as a teacher and editor. Kinsella’s poetry is both experimental and pastoral, featuring the landscape of Western Australia. Paul Kane observed in World Literature Today, “In Kinsella’s poetry these are lands marked by isolation and mundane violence and by a terrible transcendent beauty.” His The . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Animals

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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