Spherical Splendor

A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, U.S. February 1, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media. (Chase Doak/via Reuters)

Rebecca Grant, an Air Force systems specialist and president of IRIS Independent Research [said,] shooting down China’s balloon was indeed the F-22’s first air-to-air kill.”
— Oleg Burunov (Sputnik International, February 7, 2023)

I’ve been reading about the Chinese
balloon that flew over Montana and was
shot down over the Atlantic Ocean. The
Americans suspected a spy balloon; the
Chinese said it was mostly for
meteorological research.

I imagine the balloon took photographs of
the Billings skyline, the Badlands, and the
prairies, maybe finding buffalo.

Peering from 60,000+ feet with telephoto
lenses the balloon might have seen
vultures riding an updraft, circling on an
invisible column of air. I’m sure it saw
clouds below: cirrus, cumulus,
nimbostratus, lenticular; and even a
snaggled ray of lightening in a

I was told to worry and complain: What
was China up to? Why was it threatening
me with this balloon? How could they
have let this happen? Why wasn’t it caught
at the border: the Canadian border, the
Pacific border, whatever border?

I searched the internet, looking for shots
from every angle of the perfectly spherical
object, so perfect that all I can think of is
how beautiful it was…

…floating at an impossibly high altitude in
an empty China-blue sky, flawless in
glowing moon-white splendor, marked by
rectangular shadows of machinery that
suggest the tail of an ancient kite, one
made of wood and silk, flown by a child
running across a hill on the red earth
terraces of Dongchuan, Yunnan Province.
The child is laughing under a conical straw
hat. His black hair in a queue bounces
behind him. The kite is so high he squints
to see it.

I close my eyes and see the balloon, so
beautiful (apparently too beautiful for this
world), sent aloft and around the world,
over oceans and continents, to study earth
and sky, buffeted by the wind this way and
that, sailing over Montana and, finally, the
icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.


Roger Stoll lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has published articles, book reviews and political poetry in Black Agenda Report, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Internationalist 360, Jewschool, Marxism-Leninism Today, MintPress News, MRonline, New Verse News, Orinoco Tribune, Popular Resistance, Resumen Latinoamericano, San Francisco Examiner, and ZNet. Read other articles by Roger.