“The View from There”

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Patricia Hooper won the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize for her piece, “The View from There,” in 2011. Her poem appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the Michigan Quarterly Review and can be found in our archives.


High over Italy

this morning, the sky is filled

with parachutes it seems, but when

they come a little closer—fifty

or sixty of them—every dazzling

undiluted color, sporting stripes,

we see that they’ve become

hot air balloons, and dangling

in their baskets, passengers

are waving, heading for

the Alps.

They skim

the trees along

the road we’re cycling down,

and rise on billowing gusts across

the countryside, then up and

up they go, until it’s hard to guess

their altitudes. How leisurely

they seem, drifting above

the hillside towns to reach

those jagged apparitions

tipped with snow.

I’d want to go

too, if I hadn’t seen

that interview on last night’s

local news: how a reporter riding

along a year ago to write the story

of the festival saw the balloon ahead

lift suddenly and not quite clear

the peaks, then start to sink

toward somewhere just below

the cliffs, and later read

that all aboard

were dead

although from where

he floated, farther still

across the firmament, it looked

like one more graceful if abrupt

descent, and when he leaned to peer

over the rim, he saw what seemed to be

a heap of multicolored nylon sails

collapsing, or a shining silken tent

pitched on the rocks. Given

that god’s-eye-view too far

from earth to hear

the oddly silent

fall, or to observe (before it all

went up in flames) a single fractured

skull, he would have called it beautiful.

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