Balloon Passages
by Donald Kihm

"I recline in the morning’s palm
being read by the November sun
I join the flock
browsing through the ‘it’
of life what beckoned me"

Seemingly using the various phases of a hot balloon ride as a metaphor for life, Kihm weaves together myriad topics and references to icons—ranging from Jackson Pollock and Octavio Paz to Carl Jung and Socrates. Through the use of short lines, thought-provoking imagery, and an expert command of enjambment, Kihm maintains a swift pace and infuses the poetry with energy.

Experience and development, both emotional and cognitive, are pertinent in this compilation. It begins with “Preliminaries before Flight,” a representation of the foundations necessary before taking off in life. Poems like “Down” and “Youthening” explore the intellectual curiosities of the subject, be it a baby watching in awe as applesauce decorates the tile floor like a Pollock painting or the speaker observing a family of ducklings in their natural habitat. Later, poems like “Slumber” and “Cherished Times” depict a relaxed, carefree tone of tranquility. In the second part, “Air Currents” tackles topics including but not limited to intimacy in “Sure Shot” and empathy in “Zen Passage.”

Kihm’s poetry, with imagery like “Today slips like tugs on his earlobe,” has an almost musical rhythm that audiences will undoubtedly find appealing. Each poem takes on a life of its own, evoking various emotions that both stir and soothe the human spirit. In “Coming to Rest,” the poetry dwells on feelings of nostalgia, a reflection of achievements and experiences. In particular, “Aging” stands out because of the syntactical structure, where the reader can literally feel time leaving its “boot marks.” Perhaps the most intriguing piece of the compilation, “Muse,” reflects on life, a “hammock strung between ash and maple,” to express the gamut of experiences and emotions that fill the lifespan. Kihm’s use of a hot air balloon as a metaphor for life and his wizardry with the poetic form render his book a meaningful read.

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