Offering to the sky

Leticia Urieta

In the morning we tied you, our baby, to balloons and watched you float up and away from us into the gray sky, floating straight to heaven.

We packed you in hampers, in baskets, tied balloons to chairs for the older ones and strapped you in with severed car seat belts and twine, letting our collective hope lift you away from this place.

Attached to your clothes were notes in as many languages as we could think of pleading for safe passage for our little ones. We even made sure to give you white balloons. White for clouds. White for peace. White for disappear.

In the dark before dawn we kissed our sleeping, crying babies. We brought you to the roof to cast you away. All around us other mothers and fathers, grandmothers and uncles wiped their eyes clean and tied the balloon strings tight. Who sent their little one up first? No one wanted to be the first or the last.

Some balloons weren’t fastened right; the children never made it off the ground, got stuck in trees, and we were all afraid to hear the morning ripped open by your screams. Finally, we saw our neighbor’s children ride the wind into the clouds and knew it would work. There, on our cracked roof, we pressed our lips to your fuzzy forehead. You were warm, tucked so carefully into your basket with blankets all around you. You didn’t know yet what goodbye meant. We never taught you that.

Your father lifted the basket onto his shoulders while I arranged the balloon strings. With one great heave you, our son, were up and away. You would not hear our voices again or recognize our faces on the news.

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Leticia Urieta is a Tejana writer from Austin, TX. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a fiction candidate in the MFA program at Texas State University, where she is a graduate teaching assistant and the blog editor for Front Porch Journal. She is currently working as an educator in the community with a focus on equity in the pedagogy of writing as the director of Barrio Writers Austin. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cleaver, Bearing the Mask: Persona Poems of the Southwest from Dos Gatos Press, Chicon Street Poets, St. Sucia Zine, Chiflada Zine, BorderSenses and Kweli.