Brace for Impact

by Alan Soldofsky

Alan Soldofsky

The lights are out as we circle the airport,
except for one narrow slot overhead.
We are strapped in. We haven't slept, many
of us have stopped talking, but some of us
can't stop talking. We've heard the
safety instructions and are trying hard
to remember what we need do to first.
We are not ready to panic, though we
might be on a collision course with
blindness, rising up beneath the wings.

The lid is off. We've swooped into a
stiff headwind and bounced around the sky.
You feel the pressure building up. From the
middle seat you get a glimpse of gouged hills,
charred shrubbery, dry canyons crisscrossing
on the back slope. It hurts to breathe so much
recycled air. We're circling the ground.
But here's the thing, why not say what
really happened no matter how weird it sounds.
There's no Wi-Fi connection. The air's
too rough. To ride out this turbulence it's
best to be silent, chew gum, or droop down
your head. Breathe now or forever hold
your breath. We're not allowed to move about
the cabin. Despite the hardship of dusk,
the grid below is diaphanous. The
captain's voice comes over the intercom.
You can't talk back. He says more weather's coming
over Camelback, but we're in line to land.
He says there's nothing really to worry.
about. The cockpit's eye is damage proof.

In a poem there should be something hidden.
A poet thinks in metaphor. But when
the engines begin to shudder, this is fear
not in syllables. This is the thing
itself. A tremble in the metal, then
we drop and are blown sideways as the clouds
drift up, shreds of gray in the gathering
dark that we bump up and down in, riding
the wind's spine like at a carnival. (Don't
let me throw up on the seat in front
of me.) The flight attendants clutch their seats.
You're not sure if you believe at the end
the low will be brought high and the high be
brought low. But for now all you can do is be
sure your tray table's put back and your seat
is in the upright position. We bounce
two times when we hit the tarmac. We're all
over the place. Everyone's yelling as
we lunge down the runway. The next few years
you'll have to talk, a mask over your face.

Last updated November 03, 2022