Old Ideas of Air Travel

A poem


I’m looking into a blue tarpaulin of sky

where the flecks in my vision ascend and glide

as if they were, too, the cloud-light dirigibles

that once traversed this pinch of hemisphere in record time,

and I think of when we lighted upon that fire balloon kit

in the sudden hangar of your father’s shed

its packaging venous as a pinned moth,

that we unpacked it and let the breeze bring it to life

and it bobbed up, wingless, a jellyfish calmly

blazing a trail through the pondweed of night.

Soon it was aglow at your farmhouse’s height

but the flame bent scale, detail and distance

and in it I saw those Parisian contraptions

that would have looked more at home underwater

the Aerostat Reveillon, Garnerin parachute and hydrogen balloon

Blanchard sat in to cross the blunt English Channel

the faux wings he’d made of bamboo and linen,

the sandbags, coats, pants and provisions, all needing to go over

once the wind had pulled him too close to the water.

And it hung there, while this flotsam buoyed up in my mind,

until it seemed our grey patch of field had been blown

up and into a distance that couldn’t be settled, so I turned,

and in turning shored up your flush face, a coastline.