(For Çimen Filliz PAŞA)
In the distance, great ovals–fellow balloons suffused with the light of their own fires–flash bold colors in encouragement.
Now, our newborn rises above the flame, tethered to the earth and her need for more air … more … and more. While she feeds, we climb into her basket, watching her sides expand above us into a massive cylindrical sail. When she is satiated, hands reach to untether her and, ever so gently, she lifts.
Cradled in a mother’s woven arms, we rise above the land of mothers.
Up, into a holy quiet punctuated with the roar of flame throwers–
–we are moved to silence.
In the morning light we join the others, a troupe of ascending jellyfish gliding the ocean depths. Our balloon feels the wind and gives to it, but keeps us close to her so we feel nothing as we slide through the silk of sky.
Below us opens a panorama shaped by ancient violence into alien towers and creases, into cliffs streaked with colors from cream to rust, and fairy castle cones that spear the air, their pocked sides a refuge to fox and man.
We tease the cliff face, skimming close enough to snatch a breath or tuft of grass. With a laugh at us, our balloon catches the updraft and lifts to greet her brother sun, seeming to pull him up like a bauble over a ridge crest.
Too soon, we descend. Too soon, we stand, creatures of the earth again and watch our balloon settle and collapse. She dies with quiet dignity, the dignity of one who but falls into slumber, only waiting to awake again and kiss the sky.
T.K. Thorne is a retired police captain (Birmingham, Alabama), director of City Action Partnership, and an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction.