Angled toward the ground,
thirty-four tons of metal hurry down
from the stratosphere with passengers’
stowed baggage, scheduled
interviews and mid-term exams,
their internal feuds, aborted plans.
After cruising hours above it all,
their seat backs are upright, lap games off,
their novels in descent, approaching
home or time-share or deployment,
a tryst or hospice visit--
all are in the mode of denouement.
Seat belts fastened, flaps down,
each is speeding to the dated photo
of the person in the terminal
as trees streak past, the gravity
of hurtling breakneck overtaking
black smears rushing up
to meet their landing gear.
Though touch-down may be smooth,
travelers grip their arm rests
with the shaking roar of thrust reversal.
Exhaustion smoke flung forward,
they think quick prayers to brake
the headlong tilt toward final destination.
Our hotel is the highest perch to circle
now that the pine groves are gone from this ocean island
where the gulls used to roost by the thousands
What wakes us hearts pounding are their teeming sounds,
the rush of their wingbeats, their zinging and mewing,
their silvery wings zipping around
We switch on lights, call to each other across rooms
Some break off from the flock to hurl themselves
at reflections, thudding off as guests in bed clothes
hurry into hallways, cry out questions, open windows
behold the blue-white stream of pinging souls.
after Susan Rothenberg’s “Four Views”
NEA Fellow in Poetry Donald Levering was a Jane Kenyon Award finalist and Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition prize winner in 2012. He has been a Duende Series Reader and was a Guest Poet in the Academy of American Poets online Forum. His ten poetry books include The Number of Names, Sweeping the Skylight, Whose Body, The Kingdom of Ignorance, The Fast of Thoth, Horsetail, Mister Ubiquity, Outcroppings from Navajoland, Carpool, and The Jack of Spring. Forthcoming in the fall of 2012 is Algonquins Planted Salmon. An environmental and human rights activist, he lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.