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John Horváth, Jr.


Targeted Balloons

The balloons filled with life lift up
past the eyes of small children into
ephemeral distance after dusk until
stars shine in the eyes of small children
excited by how high hot gas will go.
Are they on the moon, mom?

I'm just a guy with a cotton-candy gal
who loves the fireworks.


The astronaut's a funny, friendly man
who takes a one-week holiday up there.
And, like a dad at Disneyland, he wears
strange socks and shorts above the air
we breathe. He flies like that. He's Mr.
Rogers on TV, a soft and shaven man.
And kids'll dream of astronauts and
wonder how it is to take a dump in zero
grav, how do you know who wet the bed,
can farts propel you into space,
what games they play if Houston sleeps,
who makes their many shining toys,
why can't they stay up late?

The cosmonaut's a different sort
who rides his bucket long and hard
until it falls apart--a well-loved car
that needs a tune-up nothing more;
he's a scrooge of muffler smells
in outer space. He's got a drink
or two of stuff so stiff it burns
the gullet going down and soothes
the gut with heat, and bawdy songs,
and three-day beard; he burps.
He's prob'bly got a case of Moosehead
chilled, ignores ground-control to watch
the Knicks. He's some distant relative,
a cousin who visits then won't go home.
He's uncle frank's twin-brother joe,
the one kids fear so haven't told
their moms and dads of this or that.
But he's neighborly, the kind of guy
who hasn't mowed his grass in months,
and doesn't give a small goddamn.
He smacks the wife. He belches loud.
His breath is like the stench of hell;
he doesn't shower much. The secret
to the cosmonaut's success in space?
Dads dream of being him.


John Horváth, Jr. recently published Golden Hits: 1970-2000 (Pudding House Press), and has also authored Reverend Terrebonne Walker: A Dozen Southern Fried Poems and Iliana Region Poems: Harboring the Enemy.
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