Air peels back from wing like
paring curls, and buoyed
by fluid and theory
I wind down
just as prawn drown
in a wine stupor,
caught in the waltz
of mass and lift.
There’s not a lot of geek (or nerd) in this poem, but it’s about my fear of flying,which angers me in its irrationality, and which has been filling up my thoughts lately.
Once, my fears wound in
from another era -
childhood terror congealing, in 1979,
about death by tuburculosis, then
by 1982, dying in childbirth.
But in those years, my mind met the sky
in wonder, tracing a phalanx
of light, an arrow loosed toward
the cerulean hubris of a horizon I
could never reach on foot.
This dream recurred: With a button
and a swingset, I could fly.
I did fly, once. A jet. A storm.
Drops that bested the shudder,
plummet, topple of the first hill on a wooden
roller coaster, decrepit, the kind
my mother warned me of at the county fair.
Then, a pilot out of the cockpit. An announcement.
An assurance: The brown fluid, we believe it
to be coolant. No reason we shouldn’t
make it to Atlanta.
The moment I find at “Airplane”: Is
it the fluid? Or “shouldn’t”? Or when, on the ground,
I stood at the payphone, dropping coins,
calling for a man not home to say,
“I need to know if I’m alive.”
Now, at “airplane,” I’m
a splinter falling from the phalanx,
a fletching dwindling, drifting
from the arrow, buoyed
for an instant by a hot
and angry breeze, a
wild susurrus whispering,
“I ought to be above this.”