Goodbye, Paris… & a poem about flying

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Been here, haven’t you?

I am currently flying over the Atlantic (away from Paris and our 9-month adventure here), but in honor of the occasion, I have dredged up a poem I wrote in a writing workshop at Simon’s Rock College when I was seventeen.

I thought I was so wise, but really I just flew a lot to and from school… and got melancholy on those flights.

So here it is… and if you ever wondered why all the poems I’ve shared are over a decade old, read these confessions about poetry.

“See you” when I’m back in the States.

 

Arrival

I.

The trembling handle, humming floor,

A bead of condensation licking down

Cupped hands of the vacant toilet bowl;

Each row’s portal of blue

Bent inward by the sight

Of the tangled hair of clouds;

Slow spreading of stale

Dinner smells through the cabin

Aisles in hot, sour gusts;

Glimpse of tight breasts

Fondled by the rough hand

Of a wool sweater, seen between

The crooked backs of seats;

The pressure of a gray handkerchief

Knotted around dirty strands of hair,

This plane, an old woman made small

By the wide arms of air, or

A moth flapping over an ash heap.

 

II.

When you fly, you forget your name,

Become some nocturnal creature

Hunched over the stiff fabric

Of 16-A or 34-C.  There’s the steam

That rises from glistening foreheads,

Damp palms, bodies lined up carefully

and numbered.  Even the finger-stripped

Magazines meet you unprepared,

Cramped in your seat, bleary,

Unsure of the world.  For here,

Pressed in against some lambskin

Coat, the fleece balled up

Like cotton weeping on its stalk,

You are neither where you are going

Nor where you came from.  You are

16,000 feet above your city limits, your dry-

mouthed hopes, your three kids,

Your electric razor.  Heart,

What is that?  No answer, just a vision

Of marked exits and, nearby, the low

Rattle of breath.

III.

In the airport, you blink.

You blink.  You blink. The swollen

Eyes of high lamps blaze down, a dozen

Scornful suns. Something heavy

Gripped in your hand and a lingering

Itch on one arm remembers the dry

Scratch of the puckered seat. Water-

Spotted leather shoes two steps ahead

Tap out a path through a long corridor,

One hundred four

Other pairs of feet scuffing, wheels

Clack-clacking over low seams

Of tiles.  You are glassed into this passage;

Windows stretch thin between frames,

Meeting night with only half an inch of skin.

Below, planes drag their burdensome bodies

Across pavement.  Blue, red, orange

Lights scan, flicker, pulse, quarreling

In the bustle, illuminating

The oily memories of palms, fingertips,

Which tomorrow will be wiped clean.

And in the glass, a face skims, reflected.

Yes, rolled pieces of night, eyes

Tugged on by the darkness,

Also the crook of an ear, slash for a nose

Lips uncertain of the hour.

And the shadowy thing of skin,

This face . . . whose?

And . . . can you claim it as yours?

But wait, no fear! There, a voice,

Your name, up ahead the familiar glow

Of the familial grin — recognition!

Your relief now accompanied by the shallow

Breaths usually reserved for moments

After brief love-making or mild exercise.

 

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