Two poems selected by Adrienne Cassel, Guest Editor for Flights. My thanks to her and Jamey Dunham for their inclusion of Los Angeles to Las Vegas, 1958 and 90th and Lexington to Newark, NJ, 2011, which are part of a suite of poems called See America.
90th and Lexington to Newark, NJ, 2011
In the hour before my vacation ends I meet
a young man who’s heart is as seared
as mine has been these last few years.
We open each other up with everything
we have: our lips, our eyes, our hands.
After, in the cab, he says he’s Googled me.
I’ve been opened up like a book
it seems, like so much Information,
my story spilling forward
from this man who’s researched the
man he’d loved for just an hour. After
our kiss in the cab, the Indian driver,
watching in the rearview at 44th,
discreetly turns. When my hour’s love
has gone, I ask the driver where he’s from.
“Calcutta,” he says. We talk of India’s beauty,
our families, the selfishness of Americans.
I remember the love of Indians in 1981,
in the pre-dawn glow of the Taj Mahal,
the love of the man who’s picture I took
with his wife, hours earlier, Indians both, and
his insistence that I be photographed
with his love before a museum housing
ghosts of the world’s artists – the work
of grace’s fleeting moments.
Is this not the point? To love?
Even for an hour?
For 1/60 of a second?
Or on a cab ride,
our lives speeding forward,
creating love with a kiss, a picture,
a hug with a cabdriver at departure’s curb?
Los Angeles to Las Vegas, 1958
It’s the bird I’m thinking of,
this thing of flight, as
I’m driving my girl to Vegas.
The one thing she wanted,
its cage propped against the seat,
wind whipping its feathers,
a few days ago in Playa del Rey
where we met blind.
We’re minutes away from marriage
and this white bird comes to mind
who lives inside a cage,
while she takes my hand
at the Chapel of the Bells.
With this ring I lift the latch,
and the bird flies free.
We will live our consequences:
this thing in her belly,
a seed that bird
might have eaten as a
blessing before taking flight.
We will lick the wounds and
secrets of youth’s folly.
We will drive home
to the Playa and our
feathers will be full.