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Friday, 8 January 2010

Message from the Captain



Not much time before landing, might as well say all this at last. A little wrath gave me a place to hide my face in, but when that passed and I looked in the eyes of those I'd left here to wander alone under the low ceiling of the empty sky, mercy measured the extent of my great openness, and I said: I won't say one more word; and I dashed my headset to the cockpit floor.

Nothing mars the clarity of this calm desert night until I will it. There's a lot of cloud cover as we go down. The departure of the mountains and the removal of the hills may well ensue, but not the ending of this feeling of deep peace waiting at the end of the landing strip; into which, as on a ship drifting after being wrecked in a storm, one must belatedly and unexpectedly happen. I think I can make out the runway lights.

Swissair Flight 111 (crashed after an in-flight fire, 2 September, 1998): image by Anynobody, 2008


TC said...

The Captain says: click on the image, fasten your seatbelts, secure your trays...

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Que será, será Tom,

Maybe the most gripping of plane tragedy cinema —

"Whisky Romeo Zulu" (2005) is an Argentine drama film, directed by Enrique Piñeyro.

Your own got our cold feet sweating!

TC said...

You put your life in the Captain's hands.


Very scary! Going on NYC in a week, buckle up. Meanwhile, in the parallel universe, something like "cloud cover" also here --


first pale orange of sky above blackness
of trees, whiteness of half moon by leaf
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

elements of picture, itself
meaning in perception

e.g., the logical character
of construction, fact

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
shadowed slope of cliff across from it

TC said...

Have a safe flight, Stephen. But I worry: what will the channels do without their laureate? Is there such a thing as a channel flowing in a forest, with no one to hear it, and is it therefore still a channel, etc.?

On another perhaps relevant note -- after all we stretch relevance here much as the India rubber man stretches his appendages -- I hate to give away clues to the minimal obscurities that serve as the wobbly centres of my "texts" (ooh how precious that term has come to sound, unless of course you're in the "text" industry), but, in case it isn't really blindingly obvious, this post wasn't meant to be spoken by an airline pilot REALLY, no, the speaker was meant to be God.


(It's just a few moments ago been pointed out to me by a kind friend that two posts below I seem to have said I didn't believe in God, so this one amounts to an implicit denial and even a betrayal of my own atheism. Whether the result of short term memory failure or mere chronic vacillation, I suppose this does seem to be the case.)

Anonymous said...

Take-offs are so exciting! I refuse to have any logical or scientific explanation of how such a huge structure can be suspended in the air. I prefer the magic of it.
Now touchdowns, whenever I am on a plane and it lands, a tear runs down my cheek. It is inevitable. Flying thrills me so much that I feel at peace once we are on solid ground again. It is the perfect finale for the adventure of flying.

~otto~ said...

You always nail the landing. Loved the runway lights.

Anonymous said...

my father used to fly us
through the western pennsylvanian
ohio and west virginian skies.

my brothers and i were always thrilled
to be invited along on that ride
although the joy was different for each.

i do not know what kicks my brothers
gathered on those weekend afternoons
we didnt talk much then or even now

i really enjoyed the feel of taking the stick
with my dad giving it over but more i loved
knowing that even so he was still captain


Thanks Tom, and what will take the place of the channel? We'll see, but meanwhile ---


first pink-red of sky above still black
trees, waning white moon next to branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

standing-against the moment,
in that case the word

hardly present, the picture,
something happened on

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
wingspan of pelican flapping across it

Anonymous said...

whitman. "captain, oh my captain"

TC said...

Okay, so God is merely my co-pilot.

Takeoffs and landings are all that count.

For a pelican, though, I suppose the important part of the flight is the fish you catch in the middle.

(At least no mad bomber is ever going to bother to blow up a pelican.)

Rachel Loden said...

Yeek. "I think I can make out the runway lights" is a good line, and in fact my fingers twice typed "god line."

So why after several readings do I still keep thinking that I want the poem to end (or really that it does end for me) in that devastating run-up to "happen"?

TC said...


Well, I think what it is is, we all have to make these concessions to our gods.

Of course those closure gods can be dangerous, like the gods of the Mayans and the Aztecs.

Once, when Ted was helpfully going through a bunch of my poems -- how else could he steal his friends' best lines, if he didn't studiously pore over all their new poems? (I remember he used to regularly sneak in and examine/pilfer Dick's when RG was out at work) -- he remarked that if they were his, he'd throw out all the last lines, so as to make the poems more mysterious.

Reconsidering this remark over the years has made me feel variously bad and good, depending on the occasion.

(And speaking of working in mysterious ways, while you were commenting here, guess where I was? In the afterlife? No. At Wordstrumpet? Yes.)

Rachel Loden said...

You're kidding! That graveyard?

It touches me to hear that you were there. I think of things to post at Wordstrumpet pretty much daily but no time (as yet), no time.

Curtis Faville said...

I've had a prefiguration of death many times, while circling over airports, either just above the clouds or the twinkling incandescence of cities.

Maybe jet flight is like being dead, circling around at 25,000 feet, freed from gravity and the cares of ground.

TC said...


I remember my "flying days" as one long nightmare.

A DC-3 with one engine out, bouncing to a wobbly skid-stop on a golf course in Kent.

An SFO/Seattle flight that had to turn back because--message from the Captain--one wheel wouldn't budge from a half-retracted position, and the Captain said, Get ready to see some sparks, folks. And we did.

And that terrible "tight" (short) runway approach in San Diego, coming in from the East, yegads, the horror, more than once.

Don't really understand why one would be afraid in such circumstances, what a clean, quick exit it would be, sans the horrors of beeps and lights and intubation in the institutional sundown sector.

Probably just the creature deep inside saying, You shouldn't be in this metal tube up in the air.

Never again, in any case.

Old 333 said...

This poem produced a strange combination of Laurie Anderson and Nazareth in my head. I like that, and am inclined to be pleased.

TC said...

Yes indeedy, and Massenet, and Isaiah.

I am inclined to be grateful for your fine ear.