The Orange Balloon

Big balloons carrying people in baskets beneath them
Lifted into the sky, full of hot air,
And small gas-filled balloons that carried only labels
Silently left the noisy fair.
Small balloons went up into the sky
Like coloured snowballs thrown at the birds;
Each carried a label it wanted returned
And caught a wind to anywhere to anywhere in the world.
A fair-haired, blue-eyed girl in a T shirt and jeans
Released her orange balloon in town
Where the sharply pointed spires and lightning conductors
Raised their weapons up to bring it down.
Rooks creaking out their rusty-throated call
Circled round it and let it go by;
Shops and factories breathing out their heat
Bounced it high into the sky.
It travelled all the cloudless summer day
Over a hundred different places,
Over a thousand pointing fingers
And over a thousand upturned staring faces.
It crossed the sea where waves’ wet tongues
Stretched out from below and tried to lick
From out of the bright blue afternoon
The steadily drifting sunlit speck.
It travelled all night and in the morning
A dark-haired, dark-eyed boy on the beach
Of a distant island saw it approach
And watched it come down at his feet.
Stanley Cook