Windspeed

We were more than a little sullen on the descent —
ticked, really, at the dead-calm state of the air
at the summit of Topsail. Like a row of penitents,
we'd hiked the hard-scrabble straight up, lugging beer

and a designer kite. It was blue and red and meant
to funnel gusts through its windsock frame. Far
from catching a mean updraft, it spent
the afternoon nose down in the crowberries and fir.

What monarch butterfly in Sumatra was so spent,
so drugged or lifeless it couldn't flap one ear-
shaped wing just once and cause a breeze, at least a dent
in the Wedgwood stillness we stood inside up there?

We coiled it and came down. And down on the crescent
of shale, four different kids tugged on the guide wire
of four different kites and hollered and bent
backwards at the strength of their flight. Composure

legged it back to the truck, we lit smokes and began to vent
into our chests. Colin moved first, sidling over near
a glib little pilot and flicking open a Leatherman blade. I went
with it, thumbing the grind-wheel of my Zippo under

the thin string nearest me. It left as if snipped. A parent
saw what his boy had lost and ran over full of hot air,
clutching tongs that pincer-gripped a heat-split wiener.
We shrugged and sniffed as the appendix of string burnt

to a cinder. We were up in the rarer atmosphere,
the social layer, where it often gets hard to breathe, and silent.
A new constellation just then visible over
Belle Isle, specks leaving, signs enacting what signs meant.

by Ken Babstock

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