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Climbing Out

ISSUE:  Autumn 1984

Blue fluid in my limbs,
momentum buoys me up
at takeoff speed
as I lose ground for that puzzle
older than hearsay,
whose thralldom is a witless bird
navigating a meadow.

Then, heavily afloat,
I run the river rapids
we know only by effect:
apple boughs swinging
their fruit like censers,
the heat mirage gusty
over Lake Cayuga
when, as now, it’s flat steel
burning in the sun.

Below me, planes sit nose up
on the airfield, like energy resting.
Only cloud-puffs high above.
At 3,000 feet, hard atilt, I stall,
and a warning buzzer screams
like a marmoset loose
in the cabin, the hull trembles,
shudders twice like a woman
gently coming, then nestles
straight down toward quilted green
and bedrock, till I get wind
of the right attitude
for lying long on the air,
and land like someone tripping
over toys in the darkness:
stagger, lurch, recovered fall.

But late at night,
still awake in the birdless,
starless black of my bedroom,
I am the moon
rinsed with glitter,
floating full over a pokey
and obedient land,
I am motion unmasked
by a wafer of steel,
I am lift made visible,
I am a dancer
with starched coattails for wings,
I am the mouth of a river
whose source is the sky,
I am trembling and hot
from this power-on stall,
I am flight-luscious,
I am kneeling on air.


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