Today's poem is by Sherman Alexie
at the Santa Barbara Airport
Descending, in our forty-seat airplane,
I saw an older man had parked his car
At the edge of the runway. He waved
At us, so I waved, but we were too far
Apart to see each other, and he was not
Welcoming me anyway. Near the back
Of the plane, a woman, hair in a knot,
Clutching a tattered Vintage paperback,
Waved and smiled and hugged her seatmate.
"That's my husband," she said. "I haven't seen
Him in ten years. It's so great, it's so great."
She shook and wept; it was quite a scene
A mysteryand I was hungry to know
Why a wife and husband had lived apart
For a decade. I wanted to ask, but no,
I decided to imagine the parts
They'd been playing: She was the Red Cross
Nurse who'd been kidnapped by militant
Rebels, then blindfolded and marched across
The border, but he'd remained diligent
For ten epic years, pressuring despots
And presidents, until the March dawn
When Australian tourists spotted
Her staggering across a Thai hotel lawn.
Starved and weak, she fell into their arms.
"I've been released," she said. "I've been released."
Traded for ammunition and small arms,
And treated for malnutrition and disease,
She was only now, six weeks after rescue,
Reuniting with her husband. She was first
Off the airplanewe all gave her the room
And she, aching with a different thirst,
Burst through the security gates
And rushed into her husband's embrace.
Later, after they had gone, as I waited
For my bags, I saw a friendly face
A young woman who'd just witnessed
What I'd witnessed. I wiped away tears.
"Ten years," I said. "I'd die from the stress."
"Oh, no," she said. "It wasn't ten years.
It was ten days." Jesus, I had misheard
The old woman and created glory
Out of the ordinary. Just one word,
Misplaced, turned a true and brief story
Into a myth. And, yes, it was lovely
To see how the long-in-love can stay
In love. But who truly gets that lonely
After only ten days away?
I thought I had witnessed an epic
A Santa Barbara elderly Odyssey
But it was something more simplistic.
It was a love story, small and silly,
And this is cruel, but here's my confession:
Depending on the weather or my mood,
I'll repeat the myth because it's more impressive
Than something as tender as the truth.
Copyright © 2009 Sherman Alexie All rights reserved
from Smartish Pace
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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