The Life of a Balloon

Can you blow up a balloon, and for whom is it needed?
I blew up my first balloon today because my grandson pleaded.
‘Bomaboom,’ he said.

A worried tug at the clammy disc. Can I?
Lowering the diaphragm, like being in a too fast lift
Or letting down a castle drawbridge cautiously.
Filling the lungs, pushing from the belly,
Funnelling air through the throat, crimping the lips.
Pouring myself. Mouth wide. The relief then pride
As the balloon bloats, floats, and starts to gleam.
‘Bomaboom,’ he says.

Another doubt when I need to inhale again.
I feel the rush of escaped air on my cheek.
Puff. Then gasp. Dry glacier air over the tonsils.
Enough? One hand under the swell,
The other holding the neck to my mouth.
My eyebrows must be like Macdonalds’ arches,
Thirst, then my head about to burst.
But he needs it. His round eyes are greedy for it.
Bigger, he says. Bigger.
‘Enough,’ I pant with a last breath. Done it.
‘Bomaboom,’ he says.

I stretch the balloon neck, the sudden twist,
Such confidence. The knot, and then the snapping back
That forms the tutu skirt under the balloon’s huge head.
Grandmas know when to stop rather than pop.

We let go, with a pat, up into the air,
The engorged thing floats, like a moon,
A Pooh bear blue moon in our sitting room.
How magic is that! Pat. Pat again. Pat.
‘Bomaboom,’ he says.
Grandson and I watch in admiration.
Life, we know, is all about transformation.

The larger the balloon the shinier,
And the more it reflects the hardness of light.
The older the balloon the smaller it becomes,
Its surface dull like a VW van.
The older a balloon, the more wrinkled and softer.
Till it can no longer float in air.
It shrivels and shrinks to land quietly atop a bowl,
Or languish on a couch, or in a cobwebby corner,
No longer wanting to be patted or in control of play.

It will expire with no loud Pop causing startled outrage,
With no one noticing, not even a glance, a pang.
Not even a ‘Bomaboom,’ of recognition.
It will long for air, regretting it didn’t go out with a bang
When it had the chance.
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