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Off I Go

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 09 April 2007 in Uncategorized

Tomorrow I head off to Chicago (where, incidentally, for anyone who is interested, I will be apppearing at The Bookstall in Winnetka tomorrow night at 7 PM, and at Anderson's in Naperville at 7 PM Thursday night)

Preparing for a trip made me pause, in my daily browsing of poetry, at a poem called "At the Airport" by Howard Nemerov. I know I once quoted an airport poem by Billy Collins...and more reently, one by Mary Oliver. Here is Nemerov's contribution to the oeuvre:

AT THE AIRPORT

Through the gate, where nowhere and night begin,
A hundred suddenly appear and lose
Themselves in the hot and crowded waiting room.
A hundred other herd up toward the gate,
Patiently waiting that the way be opened
To nowhere and night, while a voice recites
The intermittent litany of numbers
And the holy names of distant destinations.

None going out can be certain of getting there.
None getting there can be certain of being loved
Enough. But they are sealed in the silver tube
And lifted to be fed and cosseted,
While their upholstered cell of warmth and light
Shatters the darkness, nether here nor there.

This comes from a book published in 1967, whch explains the sadly obsolete reference to being fed and cosseted on a plane. Aside from that, there is a timeless quality to the concept of the uncertainty of flight...the "between nowhere and night" as we soar above a slower, landlocked populace. Personally I have never felt the exhilaration that some people experience in flight; my son did, and became a pilot. Though he died in a plane, I nonetheless, on hearing "O I have slipped the surly bonds of earth" read at his funeral, understood his passion and have never once wished that he had chosen a different, safer profession, for he would not have been as happy as an earthbound being.

Well! Does any of that have anything to do with writing? Only, I guess, that numerous poets (I'm remembering now, as well, a poem called "Our Ground Time Here will be Brief" by Maxine Kumin) have pondered the experience of taking to the air....have found metaphor in it. Many fewer, I imagine, have written about taking a Greyhound bus.

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