The last hour on the flight deck
Shirt too tight, a splotch of mustard (Hokkein noodles?
egg salad?) from lunch eaten somewhere over the Arctic,
steady heartbeat of lights blinking circadian rhythms.
Already his body is waking up when it shouldn’t be,
sun pulling at him from the other side of the world.
Tray tables stowed. The good coffee snuck into the galley
where air stewardesses arch their feet inside boxy heels.
The cabin dark is lush and soft as mouths in sleep.
Landing is just muscle memory. There’s a tipping
that happens as they glide past longitudes, the plane
arriving lighter, passengers heavier. He thinks
it’s a good thing they’re only ten thousand feet
in the air because he saw that film where interstellar
astronauts zip around the galaxy only to return home
the same age as their great-grandchildren, days sliding
out from under them like wet runways. He can relate:
his whole life is spent chasing lights. There’s always
a moment as he crosses the doorway where he waits
for everything around him to have changed, aged, somehow.
It’s never the case. He’s still picking up old socks
and building blocks, hears the familiar gurgle of the second
bathroom’s pipes, slips into bed while dusk
siphons lavender shadows across the room.
(published on the Hawk’s Well Theatre company website as the winner of the iYeats Poetry Competition – Emerging category).
“Longing, we say, because desire is full / of endless distances.”
– Robert Hass
In another life, my father
must have been a nomad.
He drinks butter tea,
knows his way around a saddle,
turns the living room into open rangeland.
There are horses at the door,
nudging their big noses into the hallway,
familiar to him as brothers.
Everywhere we turn they are
stamping down the carpet, swinging wide,
sweating hard, and right in the centre
of that heaving bunch of muscle,
dad pours out the door like wind,
loose bridle, easy seat,
running like hell.
In Tibetan, dropka means ‘people of the solitudes’,
as if solitude was open country.
In which we learn early
to lean into the gale, to forage old ground.
He does not dwell long,
disappears for seasons at a time
and we came to realise the way he loves
is the way a horse makes a break for it,
steaming, impatient, expectant,
body corded tight. Horses like clouds
scudding across fields of grass, wild iris,
lashed canvas. He takes off, bad back and all.
His heart opens like a valley.
(published in Primers Volume Two).
Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet whose poetry has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and published in Primers Volume Two, The Emma Press Anthology of Love, and Under the Radar magazine. She is also Co-Director of Verve Poetry Festival and part of Room 204, Writing West Midlands’ development programme for emerging writers. Hear Cynthia read at Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge on September 30. Twitter @cynthiamiller