Cassandra Cleghorn’s poem “Good to Go” appeared in our Winter 2000 issue. Her collection Four Weathercocks was published in April.
You get yourself to the point where
you’re sketching on napkins. How to
cluster the balloons, rate of lift. Altimeter,
penknife, compass, jerky, two-way radio,
Coca-Cola, L.A. County road map, pellet gun,
question mark, question mark.
If you should plummet, slash
the water jugs rigged to the frame
light as a bird’s bones. Christening:
Inspiration. The end of lists.
Calm in your lawn chair, tilting slightly,
tethered to forty-two weather balloons,
you’re vaulted two miles up into
the third busiest airspace in North America,
saying, Wow, man! Unreal!
All the gear secured except the gun,
which does lurch from your lap.
You watch it fall toward the motherboard
of a city, until your eye can’t parse the splinter
the gun becomes. No way in heck. Machines
of rising and descent. No way. Evidently
the helium begins leaking out. So you plunge,
raining spring water until your chair parts
the power lines above some guy’s house and
you hang there like something the stork bought.
Fifteen years later you will shoot yourself
in the San Gabriel Mountains,
above a place called Idlehour.
But what if the Santa Anas had claimed
your rig, gusts wheeling off the canyons?
Soaring over Highway One, over the
spine of sand keeping everything we do
from all we wish for and can never know;
streaks of sapphire and beryl stone; broad,
rusting bands of kelp; clarity to a point; silhouettes;
depth. Skim off the top fathom: no bright fishes,
just primitive stuff getting by in the dark.
Eyes strain, soreness in the neck. Ease back
in yours ling off waffle webbing.
Try out a theory: space mirrors the sea.
There will be time to consider objections.
A sip of Coke. Revert to verses marked
in mind alone, something, something,
yes, sandstone’s crumble. Remove by day
in their sight, in their sight. Sigh,
but not aloud, Transistor falls,
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