Attention passengers: Flight 1491 has
Note to self: the middle of the journey.
That's all that's needed. no dark wood required.
Notice the colors: how they're like fine ash,
a universe already burned to cinders.
Walls, floors, furniture, signs, everything visible:
a pall of pale gray, bone white.
Look at the faces—
when you can see them, when you're not in a line
your knuckles clenched on the handle of your carry-on—
the hard set of the mouths, the downturned eyebrows.
Hear the bodies speak: the ache of muscles
slouched in fatigue on unforgiving plastic.
No other speech. Recall a definition
of hell: to be alone with one's private rage.
Be vigilant. Keep listening for the agent,
there at the narrow gate, and for some word
about another flight, an open seat,
some unexpected mercy. Put from your mind
that line about abandoning every hope.
Built in a Quiet Neighborhood in 1912
the house now stands near the freeway
suspended in interlacing sounds:
by the great bridge cables of trucks on I-94
thickening morning and evening,
by rough hemp mooring lines of city streets,
the bright whipcord of a siren,
its frayed end trailing off somewhere,
the woven sounds of the house,
its shrugs and sighs,
embroideries of cricket, strands of clock,
the net of night that holds our sweaty sleep,
that holds us still.
At the Urgent Care Clinic
Same damn thing again: ear infection.
Night, and a kid who doesn't understand.
We bundle the whimpering four-year-old into a carseat,
across a city, into a waiting room; wait.
Wait, inured, against the crying and our tired arms
shifting our listless bundle of earache,
under the fluorescent light with its nervous tic.
It will be fine, we say, lips pulled tight.
We will get the pink stuff again, and the painkillers,
and go, and be okay, if we just wait.
Then into this waiting, a sound:
slapping of soles on tile, coming this way.
Heads turn, bodies bend forward,
toward the man, running this way, carrying a child
too big shouldn't need carrying
running this way, carrying a boy
bare arm running lines of red
tie at the elbow pulse point not holding
one red drop
every few steps
No other sound, no movement
but the runner, turning to angle
the boy through the door, turning
to say to the room, It's an artery,
Before him, doors open, People in colored scrubs
move in formation. The man and the boy disappear
into their care. The voices are distant.
The running footsteps fade.
When we remember how to breathe,
I shift in my chair and tune to the whimper. We wait.
© Maryann Corbett