The Red Balloon

They liked each other so much that they were 
scared to touch each other. 
Two rabbits on a Queen mattress, 
awake all through the night: 
his soft whiskers, her worried eyes. 

How quickly apartness becomes old hat. 
A habit that’s lost its lovely spark 
for blowing itself up and bringing her back. 
He breathes until the mouthpiece goes blue. 
For him, her chin went scratch, scratch, let 
me in! 
for him she went vegetarian. 
With no words they exchange new vows. 

Their anniversary is June, but he’ll say he doesn’t remember 
and not her birthday either, and not her mother’s. 
Their space gets more daring by the day (November, July) 
it floated outside his window yesterday 
when he was trying to study 
and it tugged along all the way to the library 
bright and mute as the balloon on a string 
in The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse – 
one of those movies you walk into knowing nothing about 
and now it is a poem, they can’t ever walk out. 



Ashleigh Young is a writer and editor recently arrived in London. It is her first northern hemisphere winter. Her work has appeared in BooknotesTurbineSportLandfall, and Best New Zealand Poems. Her personal essay collection Can You Tolerate This? won the 2009 Adam Foundation Prize, and an essay from the collection won the 2009 Landfall Essay Competition. Her first collection of poems will be out, optimistically, SOON.