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.

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Sojourners Magazine June 1992
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