Sara Backer

Flying to LAX

Blue runway lights outline the paperclip pattern
the airplane trundles around, heavy wings
clumsy on the curves as if they’ll drop
before the straight shot upward.
Just for this moment, as wheels lift,
passengers feel a force more powerful than they are
pushing them all back against the seats, filling their ears
with pressure enough to pop--but then,
as the plane levels, illusion of control
returns with soft drinks, pretzel packets,
and the pilot’s upbeat voice estimating a time of arrival
and pointing out Niagara Falls below.
Occupied with neck pillows, earphones, laptops,
and mean thoughts (the seatmate’s belly bulging over
the arm rest, someone’s jalapeno breath, stale air),
a man in a yellow sweatshirt scratching his red beard,
a bald father shushing two boys, a tightly ponytailed mother
fretting over her baby, grandparents, college students, suits,
and blanketed nappers, slightly wary about terrorists but really
worried about making their connections in Detroit,
trust in a pilot they’ve never seen, and whose voice could be
a recording. No one read the caveat on the E-ticket:
Your destination may not be the one you planned.
Not everyone will connect in Detroit.
Some will be stuck in Minneapolis for days, and pay
for hotels they never slept in, job interviews lost,
missed family reunions, and unmet soul mates.
Some will get trapped in jobs with salary cuts instead of raises.
Others will turn into parodies of their parents and fight
with the children they intended to love but do not understand,
or get mired in debt or alcohol or cancer, dropping down,
and down again,
with seconds to imagine the fringe of ocean
and the sunset in a flat red line.

Natural Blonde Poachers

Mid-morning Monday,
two women parked a minivan
where the dirt road was blocked
by a locked gate.
They strapped a bushel basket
into a baby stroller and rolled it
up the back rows of the orchard,
where farmhands had unloaded
crates to be packed later that week.
Sunlight caught their diamonds
as they picked oranges within reach,
sometimes throwing one far
for the black retriever with a yellow scarf
around his neck. Easily, quickly, they filled
the basket and returned to their car.
They glanced at me uneasily when I passed,
but I said nothing, and kept going downhill
with no ring, no baby, no dog,
and no oranges.

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  1. Sara Backer's poems never fail to stir and move me. She can turn an airplane trip into a small lifetime.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I'm happy to be here; I just love the cover photo--I've stood in that spot!

  3. The out-of-controlness of the airplane poem in particular was very spooky and its ending was both haunting and beautiful. And the second one...It almost had a sort of "schadenfraude" feeling, but that's not exacly it...more like a dark envy.


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