States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'Balloons over our city' by Mark O'Connor

Those big laundry baskets heaving at anchor,
a soft lift and fall
like a cat landing on feathers

Nervous passengers toeing the frost,
invited at last, to stand packed
in a cut-down phone booth of wicker.

Each shot of flame brings a slow delaying lift

then the light up-gathering pull of nylon
as tugged seams unite to draw on hawsers, cats-cradles

– a slow lift to grass-brushing height,
then with no further effort, liquidly, purely up.

Hopping trees at the lawns’ edge
like slow random Space-invader probes

slipping sideways, they float

A flight of tumescent tear-drops
in all the colours of happiness,
half planned beauty, half promotional hot air.

Like soap bubbles, wobbling into shape,
changeable cloud-dragons, unsteady
as a puppy on his first leash, then,
pleats tensing,

gorgeous supermodels rising off the sliprails
they stream down the catwalk and over the Bridge

their glorious wobbling glide
an uneasy suspension.
over crisp tree-filled suburbs
of currawong, magpie, galah.

Sleek silks hanging on nothingness,
with surfaces of skin and paint
over hot innards that thrust them up.

In the silent competitive climbing
a splotch of dawn like a rouge-blob on each cheek. Yet
in the midst of glamour they are mortal.

Drifting out of our city like happiness
over indifferent magpies clearing their throats,
two of them, blown too close, dance a deadly tango
suddenly graceless, with shouted comments in Strine.

Sky cadillacs, riding on springs of air
to crash at last, self-wrecked,
on some golf course where, with a nod to physics,
they swoon into gravity,
these transcontinental ephemerals
whose glories, swirled and stowed in a ute-sized box,
vanish in mufti into the city-bound traffic.

Mark O’Connor

Mark O'Connor

Mark O'Connor

Mark O’Connor was born in Melbourne in 1945, and graduated from Melbourne University in 1965. He lives in Canberra. In 1999 he was the Australian National University’s H.C. Coombs Fellow, and thereafter a Visiting Scholar in its Department of Archaeology and Natural History. He has taught English at several universities, has published fifteen books of verse, and won many prizes and awards. His poetry shows a special interest in the natural world. He was Australia’s ‘Olympic poet’ for the Sydney 2000 Games, with a fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts to ‘report in verse on the Games’. He holds a doctorate in Shakespearian studies, and is the editor of Oxford University Press’ much re-printed Two Centuries of Australian Poetry.

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