Joseph Harrison

                        Air Larry

(Larry Walters flew a lawn chair attached to helium
balloons to a height of 16,000 feet, into the jet lanes above
Los Angeles; he named is craft "Inspiration I."

When the idea came
It seemed, at best, a dicey thing to do:
You rig your vehicle, give it a name,
Straighten a line or two,

Then, confident you've given it your best
If not that it will carry you aloft,
You put it to the test
And it just takes off,

Lifting you over the trees
And up the sky
Easy as you please,
Till soon you are really high,

Your neighborhood, turned miniature, is gone,
And you wonder how,
Up here all alone,
To get the hell down, now

That the transcendental imagination
Has proven it can indeed
Surpass your wildest expectation
And raise you higher than you need

Or want to go,
For now that you are "there"
All you know is how little you know,
And that here in the upper air

It is very cold,
A disenabling extremity
Your clumsy calculations should have foretold,
And, triggering all your anxiety,

You hear, then see, roaring across the sky
As dots in the distance streak into form,
The gargantuan craft come cruising by,
Perfectly uniform,

Built for speed and altitude,
So effortless in shattering sound itself
That next to them your vehicle looks crude
And fatally flawed, just like yourself,

Painfully ill-equipped to play the hero,
And actually beginning to freeze to death
At a temperature far below zero
Where the thin air burns each breath,

And you realize you must, not a moment too soon,
Jettison all original intent
And pop your own balloon
To undertake the perilous descent.

Joseph Harrison, Someone Else's Name, Waywiser Press, 2003.