Connie Wolf, the Lady Balloonist from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, Confesses
“[O]ne of the most noticeable phenomena of balloon flight is the clarity of sounds from below.”
Eric Sloane, Folklore of American Weather, 1963
Crossing the Alps about killed me.
I never dared say it, but it’s true. In 1962
I was brazen, almost blonde, and I knew
I could do what men say and men do.
It was August, and I was childless,
and the hot air drove me to it.
Those peaks were Alexandria,
and I was Cleopatra to their thrones.
But something in me broke
up there. I missed the smell of bread
and bacon, of garlic turning silky
in the pot. My nose turned to dampness.
I sneezed a lot.
Which is not to say I was lonely
(my best company were
birds) just that I was tempered
in a solid drift of wind
in a basket in a foreign land
to see the world for what it is, but more
than that, to hear it. Not rumors
of laughter but the laugh itself
rising up, Danke between neighbors,
crisp closing of a door, the cracked falsetto
of a boy milking cows.
They came to me as sacraments
I ate and ate. It was a new faith:
hearing what I couldn’t see
and believing what I only heard.
Villages lifted up their tokens
as I passed. I knew then
all our colloquial and private ways
and knew I’d always known. The way
the old farmer, hearing the storm first
in the chimney
knows the language of the rain.
Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, Ascent, Cimarron Review, The Cossack Review, Southern Indiana Review and other journals and anthologies and has been nominated for two Pushcarts. She is also the recipient of the Sherwin W. Howard Poetry Award from Weber: the Contemporary West. She holds an MFA from Eastern Washington, teaches at Weber State University, and lives in Ogden, Utah with her husband and three young sons.