Today's poem is by Dana Roeser

If You Step Off Now

                      Waking from her nest
of blankets, my rumpled
          plump seatmate in

                      maroon sweatwear asks, "Is it time
to get off?" as though she
          would step off

                      into cloud. I say, "If
you step off now
          you'll be in heaven."

                      That's what Dad and
Ellen call it: I say,
          "How's Sonny?" and

                      Dad says, "Oh, he
went to heaven." Apparently, in one
          of my lapses—one Saturday

                      when I forget to
call—there has been yet
          another funeral for someone

                      at Dad's retirement
place. Which they shrug off
          like a grocery

                      shop, a step off
with carry-on bag into
          a neutral, disinterested

                      cloud layer. The pilot over
the PA makes a point
          to tell us it's morning

                      as if we could have
turned the world
          upside down,

                      entirely, in our overnight flight,
and declared it sunset, the slant
          golden light strobing

                      the cabin, our foreheads.
"Sharon" had to crawl on all fours
          to wedge her bulk

                      into the seat. Still,
she stroked and massaged her
          almost equally hefty

                      husband, talked in a
low voice to him, slept against him—
          was never cross—the whole

                      flight; she turned her awkward
body around once or twice, kneeing me
          in the process, to talk with her

                      sister, her sister's husband,
her toddler nephew, lodged
          in the seats behind. She was,

                      they all were, her sister
told me, traveling to Norway for the
          first time in twenty

                      plus years to see the
old people. Not off on an
          individual getting-away-from-it-all

                      junket, as someone I won't
name might have been said to be.
          I can't say why I like

                      to hang between cities
in airplanes, willfully eluding
          gravity, my life whittled

                      down to a suitcase,
looking out my porthole window
          at the foamy celestial surf. Or

                      to roam the white
airport, while my children wail and thrash
          in their plasticine sleeves

                      in my wallet. I troll dispassionately
the duty-free shops for the essentials
          of this world—cameras, perfume,

                      watches—stacked so pleasingly
in their glittering cases, or the souvenir
          stands, where people

                      like Sharon and her family
earnestly shop, for tokens of the mud, and wind,
          and flowers of Holland,

                      the netherland below
the nowhere where I stand: a palm-sized
          windmill, a paper bag

                      of tulip bulbs, and,
for walking buried streets and gardens,
          a miniature pair of brightly stenciled

                      wooden clogs.

Copyright © 2008 Dana Roeser All rights reserved
from Northwest Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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