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The Long Return of the Blue Balloon

I once was lost
But now I’m found…

I lost it before I knew it was gone. But it was only a poem, so what did it matter. It didn’t. Matter, that is. Still, the loss bugged me for many years, even after I’d given the poem up for evaporated. But then “Just when I think I’m out this poem pulls me back in” — sometimes on a cord longer than half a lifetime. Here’s the skinny, Winny.

Long ago I lived in Berkeley and pretended to go to University there. But it was the late 60s and I was the prince of the hippies. One of them anyway. I worked at little jobs here and there for mere money, but my real job was… “poet.” I wrote poems. Lots of them. All the time. Once I’d written one I’d send it out to the underground newspapers and magazines that were popping out of the thick humus of the American earth like dubious mushrooms at the side of a tomb. It didn’t matter. I sent them out. And they were never, ever, published.

Except once.

It was the late 60s sometime before the moon landing and I was living with my first, but not my last, crazy girlfriend. She was crafting huge and complicated ceramic sculptures and I was writing poems. We had three cats and lived high in the Berkeley Hills. It was a full life. We made art, made love, smoked dope, and listened to the timeless rock records of the hour. The Rolling Stones made a lot of these and I found myself strangely identifying with Brian Jones, the very bad boy of the group, the Dorian Gray of rock. He was a funky monkey and a styling junkie and, for a bit, the soul of the Stones. And then one morning came the news he had drowned in his pool at Christopher Robin’s house and was as dead as Shelley in the Gulf of Spezia.

I did what any rock-worshipping hippie poet would have done, I wrote An Elegy for Brian Jones and shipped it off, one draft perfection, that day to an underground rock newspaper.

Imagine my surprise when they published it on the front page of their tabloid. I ran out and got a dozen copies and was pleased.

And then life came along, and work, and love, and marriage, and kids and career, and I just forgot about the poem for Brian Jones.

When the high waves of life receded I found myself assembling a collection of my poems for my own joy. It was then, decades away, that I remembered my published poem about Brian Jones. That is I remembered the first line and the last line.

“Like a child’s blue balloon going up and up until

Going home.”

The dozens of lines in between were erased from my mind. It may have had something to do with my 50 acid trips. I’m not quite sure but I would, in this case, have welcomed a flashback.

No such luck.

The poem was erased from my notebooks as well; probably never made it that far. No copy survived which was understandable since there was only one copy which I’d transcribed from a scrap of paper and sent off to the newspaper. Lost.

A lost poem. It happens and I have others. Still, it nagged at me over the years from time to time. Not only didn’t I remember the poem I’d even forgotten the name of the now long-vanished newspaper that published it. I searched the archives of this or that underground paper on the net but I got no hits. This failure rate continued at 100% for decades.

Then, last year, I finally got a hit. It was from a magazine called “FUSION” and the moment I saw the name I knew that was it. Not only that, there was a rare issue with the poem available for sale. But when I asked about it I was told it had been purchased by someone else the week before. A miss. A terrible miss.

But now I knew the name of the paper and the date of the publication of the issue with my lost poem in it. So I set up a watchlist on ebay.com… and again forgot about it.

Until two weeks ago when one popped up. I went to it and bought it immediately and waited for it to be shipped from England.

It arrived today and I opened it to see my poem, my elegy of the death of Brian Jones, on the front page just as I had remembered it. They’d printed it verbatim right down to my signature that noted the date.

The date was July 2, 1969.

The date that Brian Jones died was July 2, 1969.

Today, the day I got back the one poem I’d lost, is July 2, 2019.

Fifty years. To the day.

“Once I was lost,
But now I’m found.
Was blind,
But now I see.”

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • jwm July 2, 2019, 6:51 PM

    Almost a Twilight Zone moment. I absolutely cherish the small coincidences, and synchronicities. We see what we look for, and I make a habit of watching for them; ‘collecting’ them so to speak. My current project on line is the direct result of such an encounter. I believe these are the weavings of a Greater Hand. SomeOne spins this web of coincidence that weaves its way through our lives. He often shows a wry and gentle sense of humor.

    JWM

  • Julie July 2, 2019, 7:29 PM

    So, do we get to see the poem?

  • Terry July 2, 2019, 7:54 PM

    You are special Gerard. Very special indeed.

  • Auntie Analogue July 2, 2019, 8:22 PM

    @ Julie: my dear, I second your emotion. (!)

  • DAN July 2, 2019, 8:55 PM

    reminds me of my 50+ year search for the vocal version of walk don’t run. sister & i both heard it years ago on the radio in paradise, never heard it again till last year searching thru the ether & holy shit tommy leonetti & yep had to call sister & surprise her, both of us starting to wonder if MAYBE we were loosing it, life is weird. CHEERS DAN

  • jwm July 2, 2019, 9:22 PM

    Julie, Auntie. I wondered too. Just a guess here, understand:
    There are *memories*, and there are *>memories<* if you know what I mean.

    JWM

  • ROBERT SYKES July 3, 2019, 4:09 AM

    Amazing Grace.

  • ghostsniper July 3, 2019, 4:43 AM

    WOW! The once amazing interweb can still be amazing at times. Go U!

    In the next week or so I’m going to create one of them “time bridges” by posting a craigslist ad in Gettysburg for some early 1940’s high school yearbooks that belonged to my deceased uncle.

  • H July 3, 2019, 5:40 AM

    Gerald bags the white whale. Congratulations! I hae me own wee quest, somewhat personal to be sure but not of my own devising. There was once published a MASH like novel about a helicopter unit in Veet Nom that painted the Vietnamese words for “straight arrow” on the tail booms of their aircraft. Turns out the words were really “up your ass” and the interpreter who gave the C.O. the translation had decided to have a little fun at the orificer’s expense.

    The fictitious unit was very much like the one I was in and somehow I let the book get away from me. I neither remember the title or author and have been searching for another copy for over 30 years. Maybe someday.

  • johanna donovan July 3, 2019, 6:31 AM

    A similar post in a different vein. This Priest has been unjustly imprisoned for 25 years.

    http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/it-echoes-off-these-stone-walls-let-freedom-ring/

  • Skorpion July 3, 2019, 8:31 AM

    My own 50-year anniversary story:
    In November 2013, I was going through the estate of an L.A.-based book dealer and collector. His collection of over a million books had been housed throughout his domicile, which included a network of outbuildings and shacks on the property. In a side bedroom of the front house, I was exploring a closet when I found a gunnysack containing an old rifle. When I realized what it was, and its significance, I happily added the weapon to my purchases.
    The day I found it was November 22, 2013 — the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. And the rifle was a bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano M1938 — the weapon Lee Harvey Oswald used (if you believe the Warren Report) to kill JFK.
    File under, “Synchronicities, Life’s Weird.”

  • Jeff Brokaw July 3, 2019, 9:36 AM

    A truly amazing coincidence — and congrats!

    I wrote some letter to the editor to the college paper back in 1980 or so and it got published. It was about censorship or free speech or something, I don’t even remember now. I was excited to see it printed — and then I discovered they only printed my last name!. WTF?!

  • Mike Anderson July 3, 2019, 9:48 AM

    I’d file this one under “Messages from God I’m too humble to understand.” And be glad He took the time to send one.

  • Julie July 3, 2019, 12:04 PM

    JWM – yes, I do understand 😀

    There are plenty of things I created in my younger days, which I was very pleased with when I created them. As a memory, wonderful, but not necessarily something to share…

  • Jewel July 3, 2019, 2:06 PM

    My mother loved to write poetry. Her poetry was sentimental Hallmark card stuff and she used to send her poems off to Hallmark. The poetry album is full of rejection letters.
    She used to read those poems aloud to me as a wee tyke. I still hear her when I read them in my head. But now, what transfixes me is her fine penmanship. She must have graduated from the College of Palmer Business Hand. Exquisite. Written in blue ink with a fountain pen. Perfection on onionskin paper. I hadn’t noticed those aspects before, until I took up the fountain pen, myself.
    All kinds of muscle memories revive themselves, reviving other happy memories. It’s like being in 3rd grade once more.

  • DeAnn July 5, 2019, 6:54 PM

    I especially like that some of what you have lost is finding its way back to you.
    Maybe our souls expand to value what we thought at the time was dross, as well as, what was and returns to us as the real gold of our lives.

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