I thought I'd posted this poem long ago, but apparently not. It appeared first in the Spoon River Quarterly.
Balloonist's Log, Final Entry
The field of our day lay ordinarily
before us. Gravity and practice
tethered our thoughts
to checklists. Helium
swelled fabric beyond wrinkled
rainbow to painted light-bulb. Up--
and foreheads; then hats and coiffures,
quickly pigment on the landscape. Cheers
littered the wind. We thought
we knew the limits. But late
in the day the continent of air between
field and cloud shrank to an urgent isthmus.
The causes were final and cited
accurately. In the meantime,
we bartered in good faith with Earth,
starting with sandbags, moving through provisions,
ending with camera, compass, and hope.
Rapid descent reduced the gondola and us to ballast.
By the time the trees and rocks were close enough
to name, choice had changed to fate
at a predictable rate.
Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom