Cycling into a straight
where an edge of sunflowers plows
four miles along a field of silage
I see the hot air balloon,
red and yellow herringboned,
slashing blue sideways
like a breech-baby fighting
for the ballast to right itself.
There is in the wicker pod beneath
the envelope a stick figure man
spinning in his little hands
a fire to fling into the cavity
so it will take the Sabbath sky.
Finally the inflated head,
much bigger than the body, prevails.
Above the silos, it swoops
over me and hovers.
My thighs burn as I pump
over the black, the flywheel
biting into the chain, spokes
blurring in the tire rounds.
But it will not be outdistanced.
When I lift my head to the whisper,
there is above me the perfect opening
beneath the belly into which the pilot
seems in pure fire subsumed.
Joseph Bathanti taught English at Mitchell Community College in Statesville, North Carolina, and was the author of two books of poetry, Communion Partners (Briarpatch Press, 1986) and Anson County (Williams and Simpson Press, 1989) when this poem appeared.