We’re used to hot air balloons in the Land of Enchantment. Launching in the early morning, chase crews following in pickups, cars pulled over to watch with pajama-clad kids wrapped in blankets. You never know where one might come down: in backyards or fields or roofs of houses.

But not often on streets like Zuni where a little girl was struck by a car a few weeks back. There was an argument between brothers over money. It spilled out in front of their apartment, a crummy two-story building with rusting bannisters and peeling doors right across from a gas station. And the little girl followed. If you lived there, you could hear people filling their tanks all day and the smell of gasoline would seep inside.

There’s a descanso on the corner, piled up with items: toys and vases, crosses, and many candles. But it’s been a while since the child’s death and the mound is drenched. Stuffed animals filthy, flowers dead. A bible a few feet off as if it’s been kicked out of the way.

Descansos: remembrances. What should we remember about this scene? The rainbows in the spilled gasoline? The child? Or how sometimes this is the sorriest of towns, squatting down and turning its back, the texture of the morning light as hard as stucco. Oh, flattened balloons clutter the pile too, a reminder to look up. Above the telephone poles and electrical lines, rutted streets and the noisy station on the corner. More balloons rising but from this side of town, they’re barely visible.

Published in Dos Gatos Press 2023