“The Red French Balloon Proposal,” “Her Tear Ducts Were Fuel Cells” and “exspiro”

“The Red French Balloon Proposal,” “Her Tear Ducts Were Fuel Cells” and “exspiro”

The Red French Balloon Proposal

In 1979 or so




(which boasted,

inter alia,

French scientific

tackle lugged

to Mars by the

USSR in 1971)

nearly hit

a new high

with an idea;

an event to

mark the 200th

anniversary of

Joseph-Michel &



1783 globe


balloon (fastened

with 1,800 buttons)

– a flight of which

had carried a sheep

named Montauciel

(climb to the sky)

in its basket –

by dropping a

huge sturdy red


balloon staffed

with a 25-kg.

gondola of



smack into the

brume of Venus

Her Tear Ducts Were Fuel Cells

She knit herself together

Bracing for a launch

She denounced gravity

Harbors repelled her

Her capacities were

Unchecked by doubt

Surrender nauseated her

She would not be

Reconciled to it

She was neither ripe

Nor sour

Nor lusty

Rebellion sickened her

Her cloaks were

Composed of steel

She was neither gluttonous

Nor satisfied

Nor sore

None of her bones contained cynicism

She hadn’t a cynical bone in

Her cylindrical body

Tenderness upset her

She afforded tenderness

Only upon herself

Modernity even in

Moderation could never

Hold her interest

Divergence was not her kin

Salvation was not for her kind

Dreaming was not her crown

She wasn’t the type for

Lipstick and a wig

Nothing on her was painted

She was no one’s ‘doll’

She was no ‘bird’

Or ‘twist’

Despite her looks

Her bright wings

And her gyrations

She was a prioress

cloistered in the abbey

called Dancing-with-myself

Her mouth was not pink or

Wet or small as she

Was mouthless

Suffering bored her

Her uterus was seeded

With gyroscopes and wires

Reason was not her bedfellow

Prophecy could not mislead her

Misdirection she rejected

She was properly led by

Obedience, equations,

Perhaps a little patriotism

She reveled in honor

She rechecked constants

She clasped humility tightly

She gave favors generously

Mindful of the future

She would find support


You pagan poets you

All urge the flimsiness of spirits

All whispy, translucent, weaklings


Apparitions with a macabre veneer

Not so. They’re tough little jobs

Here’s a simile:

Spirits are like rivets so

Don’t drop one on your boot

Think of the fist-sized rivets

Tying the hull of the Titanic together

Granted they’re what failed her

Some Irish welder not minding his task

But I’ve seen images of her

Some ten leagues down

And in large measure

They’re still holding fast

And here’s a proof:

A bearded monk shot and beaten

Whipped and shot a few more times

Then tossed into an icy river: Sploosh!

His still held taut for quite a spell

Before his body – all crumpled

Soft, corruptible – gave it up and

Even then it was barely winded

Took flight over Moscow it did

Yelping like a cowboy set free

The spirit is seated in there pretty good

It’s wedged in there awful tight

And when one does pop loose

Look out

About the Author

Thomas Simmons

Thomas Simmons is a lawyer, a tenured professor at the University of South Dakota School of Law, and a lifelong South Dakotan. His scholarship and teaching focuses on trusts and estates. His poems have been published (or are forthcoming) in Pasque Petals, El Portal, Corvus Review, Nebo, North Dakota Quarterly, Nine Muses, Thirteen Mina Birds, Amethyst Review, and The Showbear Family Circus.