“Flight 175”

I was assigned to write a free-verse poem about Sept 11th, and this is what I wrote.

“Flight 175”

I.

United Airlines, Flight 175

Economy-Class, cost me $1250;

Arm and a limb, thought I’d

Have to sell my soul just to get back home.

 

Leather seats will make the

Sweat feel stickier, thank God for

Those little air vents—cooling my flushed face.

They come as a relief, since I hate flying.

It makes me feel claustrophobic

Flying, like sardines packed

Into the bill of a hungry Boeing Pelican.

[well actually, a Boeing 757]

 

A quick survey shows a wide array

Of faces, some old, some young

Some excited, some weary.

 

I see a woman across from me

Bose noise cancelling headphones in place

As she sits soundly asleep.

Suddenly a man jumps from his seat.

Walks briskly towards the bathroom.

Probably sick from the food.

 

My eyes dart to the side, growing impatient

It’s going to be great to get back to LA

Business trips really take their toll.

I see the platform of clouds surrounding us

Like a glass floor that we glide across effortlessly

Above a safe place, above reality

Friction only a sound on a smooth flight,

I can’t help thinking about my family

And how I’d take my daughters skating silently,

Happily over this permeable pond of precipitation

If only I could see them–

When a sound, the bathroom door crashing open

Averts my gaze.

 

He is wearing trenchcoat. He has a knife.

My god, what does he want?

Another man with similar attire also rises now

He, carrying a sharpened drill.

Two more rise, looking just as angry.

They move and speak quickly, their feet

Heavy like hooves,

Beneath the weight of the horsemen four.

I am not a religious man, but

I close my eyes and I pray.

Another comes in and addresses the frightened passengers.

Beelzebub, no doubt.

 

II.

His English is broken, so it is difficult to understand.

From what I can make out, things do not look good for me.

Plane left around 8:15, it is 8:30 now.

I wonder how long it will take for us to land if we do.

I should be left alone, hopefully.

I didn’t do anything to them, and

My face is too average to catch their eye.

Maybe if I slink down in my chair a little they won’t notice me.

 

A large man stands up

Bullrushes the one with the drill.

The point catches him in the forehead, and

Kills him on impact.

Blood spills onto the carpet floors and begins to puddle and coagulate.

Screaming ensues. Then a few more stabbings just to get their point across.

 

I picture the Dutch slaughtering Africans in the Congo,

And the native victims severed heads on fence posts and doorknobs

And a voice inside repeats like a broken record,

“The horror. The horrorthehorror the…”

And the horsemen dance like children around her head.

While a globe spins over a rotisserie pit

Its ink running into the sea of fire beneath.

Forever doomed to poison the mouths it feeds.

 

III.

I check my cell-phone. No reception.

It is 8:50. Beelzebub is in the cockpit.

We’ve been gathering speed for a while now.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will die.

I cried for a little, but now I’m too devastated even for that.

I keep thinking of my girls, my wife. Who will love them

When I am gone?

We are tilting now, nose-diving I’m sure.

 

I sit and think of the last time I ever saw them.

How the little one awoke in the middle of the night

Afraid of the monsters under her bed.

And I came in and pet her head, and she asked me to sing to her

 

Twinkle twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are

Up above the world so high…”

And she fell asleep.

If only I could have sang to her the truth.

That we are the monsters in this world

Gnashing our teeth at one another because

We too are afraid of the dark, too afraid of each other,

And when we bite our enemies, we will find

We’ve really only eaten ourselves.

 

I look to the woman on my right.

Amazingly, she’s still asleep, headphones intact.

My first thought is, those are some damn good headphones.

My second is how lucky she must be,

To forever be stuck in that dream,

And never have to wake up to the nightmare.

My last is regret for that second thought

For though in this my dying hour

These recurring thoughts of panic

And sorrow and longing are heavy,

They’re a burden I am glad to have bourn

Cause I’d rather spend every remaining ounce of energy

Remembering those I have loved and cherished

Than leave any to waste on the things I never had.

 

9:05. I look one last time at my cell phone’s wallpaper:

My daughter, my wife, and I at Disneyland.

I see a large building with many glass windows.

The sound of wind against the metal wings grows louder,

I sing to calm myself: “Twinkle twinkle…”

IV.

Impact. We break like a boulder

First through that glass floor

Then through more glass.

I see debris.

I see ashes and dust.

I see black Cadillacs.

Black flowers. Everyone dressed in black.

There is a plume of black smoke,

Then, cough, nothing but black.

I have descended.

I look up and see my reflection in a glass ceiling

It smiles at me as it opens

And I arrived at home.

 

I told the moon and the stars my story,

And they asked which was better,

A head in the clouds or an ear to the ground?

I thought of my scared daughter as I pondered,

 

“When the blazing sun is gone,

When he nothing shines upon,

Then you show your little light,

Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!

 

Then the traveler in the dark

Thanks you for your tiny spark;

He could not see which way to go,

If you did not twinkle so.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!

 

In the dark blue sky you keep,

While you thro’ my window peep,

And you never shut your eye,

Till the sun is in the sky,

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!”