June 29, 2014

Megan Collins

AFTER THE MEMORIAL

It’s an elegant thought,
sending messages to Heaven. So they gathered
on the football field, slipped into balloons the words
they might have otherwise written in his yearbook.
They used their functioning, unpinned lungs to inflate
those bubbles of color, then held each tied end tightly
before finally letting go.
 
Candles in their hands,
they watched the balloons drift farther away, the distance
becoming as massive as the impossibility of an accident
had been. People lingered as long as the light allowed, then—
in huddles of arms and bowed heads—turned away,
the flames and sunset burnt out.
 
But balloons, fragile as bodies,
burst when they get too high, and the next morning, a woman
working in her garden, miles away from the field, found
I never told you this, but I love you. It was nestled in the petals
of hydrangea, and she stared at the note like the handwriting
was something she remembered.
 
There was also a girl,
pigtailed and proud of her chalk drawings, who glimpsed
a white scrap in the grass. You’re the kind of person I always
wanted to be, but I was afraid. She was too young to understand
the words, so her mother, home now after a double,
read them aloud, her breath catching.
 
And the boy’s father,
who sat on his front porch, barely seeing the lawn laid out
in front of him, only felt the note as the wind dropped it
on his feet. You were so much stronger than I ever was.
You were beautiful and brave and alive. Impossible as the fact
that he’d had to plant his son like a seed in the earth, here
were his own words, sent back from the sky.
 

Poets Respond
June 29, 2014

[download audio]

__________

Megan Collins: “I wrote this poem in response to a local tragedy in which a teenager, Austin Tautkus of Ellington, Connecticut, was killed in an ATV accident. On Tuesday of this week, there was a memorial in which people gathered to let go of balloons filled with messages they had written for the boy. The idea of this tribute moved me, and I wondered what would happen to those messages, where they would end up, once the balloons popped. In writing this poem, I imagined a kind of healing end to that story, both for those who knew Tautkus and those who didn’t but are similarly affected by their own personal heartaches.”