Long Flight Through Storm
An old couple had window seats
behind each other on the small jet, but split
up so a mother and daughter could unite,
sending them two rows apart,
me and a teenager in the row between.
Midwest battered, flights cancelled, mad
dice/hard rain/blown bad. The plane bulged
with angry sweat, riled clothes, passengers
a-frazzle from endless airport hours, wilted crew
surly with service. I stared at pages in a dull book.
When we finally began our descent into Springfield—
are you with me, adjusting the air vent,
hoping for a fresh miracle, your neck/back/legs
aching, your jaw tight with turbulence?—
the husband’s hand reached back between seats
into our row—me and the teen with jiggly tattoos,
pierced lip, jumbo fries and a gigantic Slurp,
our row lucid with grease, who played games
on a smudged screen and hogged the arm rest—
fingers stretched back, waggling—the girl looked
at me, the hand/my shrug/her smile/my smile—
glancing behind us as the wife—landing gear
lowered—spotted the hand, lunged against
her seat belt but could not reach
it as the plane clutched earth, bounced over
the slick runway to our gate.
The man took his hand back, lifted
his head above his seat and blushed—
the girl, me—I should have taken his hand,
she whispered, moist against my ear.
Hand reaching back. Fuselage. Cockpit. Galley.
Emergency procedures. I should have taken
his hand. I should have taken her hand and his hand
and sung Kumbaya as we danced down the aisle
toward the Red Lighted Exit, and down the jet way—
Jetway! Gate check. Boarding Pass.
Complimentary Beverage! I tried to fight off
the Kumbaya—hand reaching back, plunging
through to squeeze my heart as I fell
for the girl a little bit, her blushing
I should have—and so when we gathered
our carry-ons from the Overhead Bin
Where Objects May Have Shifted During Flight
and pushed forward like astral sheep
eager to step out into free fall, forgetting
or just keeping to ourselves those long seconds
of shared terror, imagining we were going some
place, searching for Ground Transportation
or a lousy snack or a stiff drink or a cellphone call
to explain our late arrival or new tattoo,
and in The Terminal the couple leaned against the wall
between the bathrooms, near the drinking fountain
and the world’s billionth Starbucks,
and made their Connection.
by Jim Daniels
Editor’s Note: Repetition in free verse is often sly and surprising. In this poem, the repeated phrase, “I should have taken his hand”, lifts the narrative from an ordinary story and pushes it into the atmosphere of the reader’s thoughts. Punctuation, enjambment, and capitalization complete the un-ordinariness of this particular flight.