We have at least one, a procession
of balloons, whose bony strings
clutch our wrists like lost children.
They appear, those balloons, whenever
we remember them, their eager pull
to a time when everything seemed fine:
when sunny water shimmered
even on cloudy afternoons,
when moonlit clouds opened
our bedroom windows to let the breeze
breathe in beside us as we slept.
They’re with us on our saddest nights:
their strings squeeze our wrists like
tiny tourniquets, our blood seeming
to drain out of us like cool pools of sweat.
Sometimes when we look at the rubbery
heads of the balloons, we see instead
their detached heads, our loved ones’ heads,
their eyes focused on the tears rolling
down our cheeks like stones.
They say nothing, the dead.
They let us sob, they let us laugh.
They must float for our sakes,
to make us feel that we’re not alone,
to lift us up like gales so that we may
dare to live while we’re still alive.
Some of us can cut their strings
with the dull scissors of time. Regardless,
our loved ones appear whenever
we remember them, their strings swinging
up from our stiff wrists like the stems
of roses that cling with love and rot.
Jacob Butlett is an award-winning gay author with an A.A. in General Studies and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2017 he won the Bauerly-Roseliep Scholarship for literary excellence, and in 2018 he received a Pushcart Prize nomination for his poetry. Some of his work has been published in The MacGuffin, Panoply, Rat’s Ass Review, COUNTERCLOCK, Cacti Fur, Gone Lawn, Rabid Oak, Ghost City Review, Lunch Ticket, Fterota Logia, Into the Void, and plain china. He was selected as a finalist in the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards residency competition. Learn more about Jacob at https://jacobbutlettacademicreflection.weebly.com/.
featured image: Liana Mikah