“Helium” by Vanessa Parks

At absolute zero, helium is the only liquid. Here,
it is frictionless, free of viscosity.
I watch grey clouds suck a balloon
into their midst. A toddler cries out for it and
collapses in the sand. Weighed down by
winter clothes, he rolls around, trying to get up.
I am suddenly reminded of Dante’s Satan,
crying and stuck in ice. At any given time,
15% of the world’s oceans are frozen.
As I kayaked around Alaskan glaciers,
I was amazed by the cold that ice emanates,
the kind of cold that works its way inside your
gloves and past the jingling door of
a ginghamed pizzeria. It’s cold the way
I didn’t call out for the balloon too.


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