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For more Poetry
Andrea Hollander Budy
Delta Flight 1152
After the first drink, you can be
what you're not. It's so easy, all you must do
is answer this man's questions with truths
you've just invented on my way to the annual meeting
of master magicians, or to a conference of physicists
or international bankers and your life is enviable,
new. Tell him you're sad because you're on your way
to your sister's wedding and you're in love
with her fiancÚ. Wipe your eyes,
sigh, mention almost under your breath the baby
you had to give up, the job. You're the one
who introduced them, you couldn't stop yourself, he would come
to your desk at the office. How lonely he was,
how young. But if you reveal the afternoon
of lunch on the rooftop, how for you
it wasn't enough, there's certain danger
this man, his drink finished, ice diluted
in the bottom of his plastic cup, will lean too far
into your invented life. He'll offer his handkerchief.
You'll finger his embroidered initials. He'll touch your arm,
hand you his card. His voice unsteady,
he'll tell you to call him at home you,
an only child on her way
to see the ocean for the first time. You, who have managed
to live a moral life, whose troubled heart has never
surrendered, now with your wild and dangerous
lies, you could turn toward this stranger
When you asked if I wanted to see
and I said yes, you opened your robe,
lifted off the gauze, and exposed
a barbed wire fence cut
through a field of snow.
The snow wasn't white exactly
but used or forgotten, the air
hardened by winter so that
to breathe was to choke.
And along its black length
that separated into two
your past and your future,
that fence was streaked
with indecipherable detritus
as though some small animal
had been dragged from its life into it
and died there, its clots of fur
still frozen in the barb.
This is your chest, I told myself,
not some deserted pasture
flattened by winter over
what is lost or missing.
I should have closed my eyes
or pictured the ocean instead.
Twenty-seven years after your death
I still can't turn away. I shut my eyes
and see your chest stitched closed.
If only poems were the only places
to know such cold.