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.