Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nowhere at the Airport

When you're at the airport, you aren't really anywhere. Priority members, who get to step onto the tiny red carpet laid out for them at the gate, and later eat the warmed up toffee cookie, may feel differently. The airport is an airless, grey, non-space, but it is filled with people with plans. Two men spread shiny wax onto the floor by the exit, their work area cordoned off by caution tape. An older woman and her husband wait on a bench by the windows for their relative for arrive. A few days ago I watched a man on the tarmac idly juggle two orange batons from my spot in 8D. Juggling is a good way to spend the time before you need to wave a plane out of its parking space. The temporary corridor of space that appears to usher you onto the plane always makes me feel like I'm at the oral surgeon's office. Pure dread.

On the plane, I have ritual to keep me sane. I peruse the overpriced dog beds and anti-aging products in Sky Mall. I attentively watch the crew go through the motions with the seatbelt and oxygen mask instruction. When it's time for my complimentary beverage, I choose ginger ale. I keep an eye out for babies and children. A couple of babies might be annoying, but they are insurance against crashing. Everyone is cordial on a plane, until the overhead baggage compartments are full, and the cheerleader stuck in the aisle decides to turn the baggage issue into her own private Tetris game. "Those backpacks can move over there. Whose green backpack is this?"

A man adjusts the air flow vent and finds it broken, perpetually on a gusty flow that sounds like an angry, hushing librarian. The man in front of me for one flight was kind enough to rearrange his seat so I could sit with my husband, and the woman who complimented my bicycle necklace was able sit with her friend and work on pointing at charts during the flight. I stare at the man's S shaped scar for most of the flight. The scar shines at the base of his skull, through the stubble of crewcut. There's bump there too. An accident? A tumor?

As soon as the announcement is made that it is safe to take out any electronic equipment, tray tables are lowered and laptops open up like clams. The evening's cruise over the midwest is shared with people whose faces are lit by blue screens. A man to the left of me works on a Powerpoint presentation. The young man seated by the window next to me pays the extra fee to have internet and watches YouTube videos of monkeys while chatting with someone on Instant Messenger. A woman ahead of us rearranges fashion photos in a Word document. I read a book. In fact, I read three books over the course of four flights, the Sky Mall (twice), and puzzle over why the woman sliding down the inflatable exit on the "In Case of Emergency" instruction card looks like she's at an amusement park. 

Printed words are so soothing when you're really nowhere, in an airport, or over the states you imagine as a map from a geography class in elementary school. Texas is pink. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Three Mom Memories for Mother's Day

I am fourteen. My father and I wait for mom to come downstairs. She's getting ready for dinner. We are going out, headed to pick up the grandmoms for a Sunday dinner at Top of the 80's. Everything is quiet, except for the water wooshing from the sink where dad fills a glass. Our kitchen table is blessed with sign that reads "VIRTUE" right above it. Just a reminder. The dogwood blooms outside the window. Dad swigs his water. I stand in the corner of the counter between the sink and the stove, with my arms crossed. I'm not a sullen teen, but I am a quiet one. Dad breaks the silence by placing his water glass back into the sink.

You know, you and your sister are really lucky to have your mother. Really lucky. He pauses, thinks. You have no idea how lucky you are to have your mother. No idea.

I look down. I know he's right, sure, but I can't admit it. If I admit to knowing I am lucky, I am going to owe her something big, and I am not in the mood for owing anyone anything. She is going to come downstairs wearing that shirtwaist dress she always wears.

I don't say anything for awhile. He looks back out the window, runs the water one more time to rinse out his glass and put it in the dishwasher.

You have no idea how lucky, he repeats.

I unfold my arms.

I know, I say. I know.


My mother stands at the kitchen sink. She is looking out at the dogwood tree, or maybe out beyond it. The sun hits her face, highlights some freckles, the shine on her nose, reveals the lighter downy hairs at the base of her neck. Her profile is lovely, I think. My mother is beautiful. It's the first time I see her the way my father might have. My mother.


We sit out on the side porch with the new baby. She's in a red romper, and is still too little to hold her head up by herself, but we prop her up and take photos. It's sunny. It's spring. You're Nana now, Mom. She grins.


I'm lucky. I know it. I'm lucky.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Paper Kite Books, Edwardsville, PA

Our yellow and white striped awning
is the only sun on Main Street.
"Make sure you ease it back a couple of turns,"
the installer advised. So I do. The rays
of happiness need some slack. I get it.

Milk crates filled with paperbacks
rest on the stoop, a handmade sign
reads "Give & Take Books." A young
mother and her daughter stopped
yesterday, perused. The mother
held The Velveteen Rabbit
for a few seconds. This morning
the rabbit still supplicates
among the mystery paperbacks.

A local poet's book was stocked
three weeks ago. His first
full-length title. Not one buyer,
but a man with a desire like an arrow
came in to ask about a knot tying book,
and another man with a voice like air
blown into an empty vessel
asked if we were currently hiring.

Each day, a parade of people bob past our windows.
Men whose licenses have been revoked ride bikes
with a case of Keystone Light in the basket.

We're here as the Reference Section,
to remind people that there is sun
so people can point and shout,
"Did you know you can get free books here?"
then turn into the mini-mart lot
and pass the Velveteen Rabbit
to buy their lottery tickets
and cigarettes.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dispatches from New York City

July 24th 2011

Madison Square Park. A squirrel busks for a cracker. Positively vampy.

39th Street is filled with the trash bags of yesterday's street fair. Sour.

Hot and humid. Even the pigeons look tired.

In the broad bike lanes on Broadway, people sleep with their heads resting on the garden tables.

The Flatiron building.

March 12th, 2012, 17th and Broadway

Tourists pose for photos with the Andy Monument by Rob Pruitt.

Rafiqui's Falafel truck isn't doing much business this morning.

The man with the stand of candy and cigarettes has not sold one bottle of Visine or one box of Razzles in the twenty minutes I have been watching.

Young girls with makeup. Middle-aged women with fur vests and glitzy handbags. Tourists in green sweatsuits with jackets that say "Juneau Alaska."

440 Lafayette

Bellydance class in 4E: "One and two and three and four and oh! Let's try it and turn now. One and two and three and switch. Let's take it from the top, go around if you can." Glad I'm not in there.

It's funny how you imagine a person if you only see them on television or in photos on the internet. When you see that person in real life, they often seem smaller and shier in person. She has a child's smile.
I would miss the city if we moved far away.

Everything here is worn. The floors from dance shoes, the doors from hands, the edges of the walls from shoe taps and large props.
I wish my arms weren't all bruised. I feel worn, too.

March 25th, 2012, 2nd and Bowery

At Peel, the waitstaff stand at the bar, white aprons tied at their waists. A young woman takes a sip of water throughh a straw. As she sips, her eyes widen. Trees bloom outside, tentatively. Glasses and silverware clink. A man in expensive looking loafers with buckles writes in a small notebook and adds to his writing on larger sheets of folded paper. A little boy with curly hair drives his toy car over the top of the ice bucket standing near his table., He isn't tall enough to fetch it out.

The air is heavy this weekend. Pollen. Humidity. Plenty of daffodils loom behind fences.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Deactivation is Inevitable

Well Hell, that poem is null, thanks to a social media blitzkrieg of kitten photos. Shocking. That idea you had? Also sectored out by a comment, a like, a distraction so accurate it was flammable. Mere procedure. Move along. Never mind the landmines.