The Aeronaut

When Sophie Blanchard cleared Tivoli Gardens,
she did not think of cloaks, umbrellas,

ball gowns wrought from taffeta.  Instead,
she studied glow above wicker cradle.

She would not lull herself to sleep this evening,
but listened to the crowd’s reverberation.

Its call of flightless birds.   Its clap of thunder.
When Jean Pierre died, she’d not succumbed

to penury, nor thrown herself in water.   She’d
renounced ground.   At Turin:  awoke to nose-

bleed.   Above Vincennes:  outbucked hailstorm.
Beneath satin scrim, Sophie, lit by Bengal

fire, out-gleamed opera.  Until Tivoli, 1819,
Sophie flitted behind cloud cover.  A Blue Fairy

unmisted other side.  Then, taffeta leaked.
Starlight caught air inflammable, and balloon

turned chandelier.  Sophie, tangled in lines,
fell.  Vertebrae snapped.  Flung from night’s

ballroom, Sophie did not brood.  She could
not dance—and, yet, she flew.

* * * * *

This poem is one in a series of works inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s photo archive, made publicly available on Flickr. If you would like to, choose an image from their collection and create something – be it prose, poetry, audio, or visual art – inspired by it, and send it to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.

BLANCHARD, MARIE MADELEINE SOPHIE (ARMAND) SI Neg. 2002-20292. Date: na...Photo of unknown artist’s rendition on a poster of Marie Madeleine Sophie (Armand) Blanchard’s balloon ascension in Milan, Italy, Aug. 15, 1811. Blanchard became France’s 1st female professional balloonist in order to continue her husband’s ballooning legacy…Credit: unknown (Smithsonian Institution)

About these ads
Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. This is beautiful. Elegiac and fantastical.

    Reply
  1. Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Weeks 27 & 28 « Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure
  2. Dr. Hurley’s Digest Volume I: Smithsoniana and Non-Fiction « Dr. Hurley's Snake-Oil Cure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 777 other followers

%d bloggers like this: