Departure; Wings

R.A. Villanueva

By the time you read this, I'll be in the air. Southbound already. 

And if the habit holds, all flight I'll be following the small, animated, real-time tracker with its shuffle of views and the sympathetic curve of the Earth. 

There will be topography, measurements of altitude, ground speed. Sometimes, shipwrecks are named. There is always a temperature gauge dropping into the -°F as we rise, plateau, then cruise at the margins of the lower stratosphere. 

* 

Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost: "The strange resonant word instar describes the stage between two successive molts [in a butterfly's life cycle], for as it grows, a caterpillar, like a snake, like Cabeza de Vaca walking across the Southwest, splits its skin again and again, each stage an instar.  It remains a caterpillar as it goes through these molts, but no longer one in the same skin. There are rituals marking such splits, graduations, indoctrinations, ceremonies of change, though most changes proceed without such clear and encouraging recognition. Instar implies something both celestial and ingrown, something heavenly and disastrous, and perhaps change is commonly like that, a buried star, oscillating between near and far.” 

* 

In the hours between the prayers I say before takeoff and our final turn toward Cape Town, I will watch our flight path cross borders, the Meridian, coasts and rifts. 

A synapse will fire—as it always does—and I will suddenly imagine a wheel well. The noise of the sky and its pressures upon bolts, welds. The bellow of engines. A pair of boys somewhere among the hydraulics locked in an embrace. 

Or, my mind will jump cut to my father a few years before I was born and just years younger than I am now. 

Imagine: there he is in Manila, outside the departures terminal, among a crowd of pompadours and cigarettes, security and baggage handlers and touts. And then there he is hours later, alone, half-awake on a layover ahead of the mainland. He touches his papers to test their existence. He carries x-rays of his heart and lungs up through customs. 

* 

Solnit, again, this time from Storming the Gates of Paradise: "...I have been fascinated by trying to map the ways that we think and talk, the unsorted experience…, the ease with which we can get to any point from any other point. Such conversation is sometimes described as being 'all over the place,' which is another way to say that it connects everything back up." 

* 

I latch a faith to that connectedness even as I doubt it as a tender fiction. I take comfort in courting there and back then because I am here and now and afraid of you losing track of us while I’m away. 

Because these days, most everything I write feels glitched and fractal and dispatch-like—messages sent out to strangers on some unfixed frequency. Because these drafts are studded with hyphens and parentheticals. Because to hear the new poems from home is a bloodletting. 

*  

Last night, in a bid to avoid packing, I spent a good hour making faces and screaming with my niece and nephew over a video feed. 

Feral, the three of us howling and throwing fists. As they clawed around on their couch, I stared at the daylight behind them through their living room windows. How bright it was in their part of the world.


 

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