To Biespiel From United Flight 1037
— Greensboro to Atlanta
Dear Brother —
I used to think of death all the time,
And then for a time I didn’t, or didn’t try to,
And now I do not expect to die on this flight
Above the skies from the Carolinas to Georgia,
Where, if I were to die, I would not have chosen Atlanta
What with its bad moods and old alchemies.
Therefore: No one will say your brother has died today.
He will not be clubbed in the aisle
Or wipe the blood out of his eyes.
He will not fall out of the Trust-in-God skies
above the Tennessee valley
Or topple as the wind topples the end of philosophy
Where the shadows cannot be tasted.
Outside this airplane, it is Friday. It is dusk.
I imagine you bringing your son and daughter
Out of the failing light of Chicago
To praise bread and wine
And cover their small heads
So that they will not be abandoned.
Though I would suggest — up here where the air is a threat
And, at times, unkind to hard thought —
That a prayer for solitude and crooked rivers
Would do as well.
But I am not that brother.
Nor am I the brother that has disremembered himself
Like the way the thousands of dead patches of farms
Rendered below across the slop of land
Have disremembered themselves —
so many farms
Un-wombed from the pace of the nation.
Even from here, you can see that their days
Go so slowly, too slowly,
Beneath the well-oiled tines of the tractor,
puckering and chuffing,
As they scratch at the pentecostal stubble.
That brother fled into shreds of light.
He clutched no one’s hand.
He dissolved as the sky dissolves.
Him like a dreadful night himself,
Jeering with a bulging howl.
And yet, how primal, that brother,
A prodigal swallow that comes back,
Convinced in the music to come
Under the garment-blue sky.
And now, as I look out the window
At the horizon’s edge, a long flat red
Collapses, then bruises into a peachy white,
Then layers and layers swaying
into a sudden lace of white.
And, then, one stray star above Atlanta.
And now sharpening like a pressing gratitude.
And now the land a spongy dark, a plowed hush,
As if what’s at the end of time is not regret and fury
But satisfaction and sweetness and stitched stars.
David Biespiel is the author of four collections of poems, including Shattering Air, Pilgrims & Beggars, Wild Civility, and The Book of Men and Women. A new collection, Charming Gardeners, is due out in the fall of 2013. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is president of the Attic Institute for Writers and Visual Artists. He also writes the Poetry Wire column for The Rumpus.