Kate Peper


Congratulations! it read,
Mylar head crooked against the beam,
cinched neck with a red ribbon dangling
to the floor. Its whole taut being
was effervescent, alive.

My boss had been pushing: You can do it!
12 hour days, weekends, time punctuated
by pizza and Red Bull breaks.
The job done, higher-ups rewarded me
with cake and the balloon.
Yes, I thought, clinking plastic glasses,
this is how life works.
For days, people paid for my lunch.
I began using words like integrity
and well-being.

Two weeks. The task I’d done
forgotten. I was asked to share
my cubicle, fill in the new girl
with what I was doing.
Redundancy’s a topic in the break room.

At home, the balloon dropped,
seems to follow me like a pet.
There’s a sucking in;
the n and o face each other
in the new fold.
It hovers over the couch,
dragging its tail like a belt on an old robe.
I drink wine and read People.
It stalls behind the TV, peeking,
then sinks below the screen.