Saturday, 2 September 2017

RIVERBED PLANES

by Lisa Segal


It’s the planes.
They take him from me.
In the Melody Bar and Grill,
across from the runway at LAX,
we see the planes touch down
as the August sun drops into the Pacific.
Tonight he will get on a plane
and leave me again.
The sun angles into our eyes,
sits on our shoulders,
melts us as we sit
in the bar’s red-flocked darkness.
He cradles my skull in his hands,
his grasp firm, yet light,
like when he guides my head
up and down in his lap,
but this time he uses me
as a shield against the sun.

“You’re wet,” he says.
He’s right.
Every part of me is humid.
My reading glasses have fogged.
Embarrassed, I look down,
pretend to scan his itinerary another time.
I don’t meet him that often anymore.
He always returns the parts of me
I try to leave behind. 

I live near the flight path.
From my balcony I watch the planes
arrive one after the other.
They’re beautiful at night,
their landing lights a string of pearls
stretching back to infinity.
Once in a while the moon
is strung amongst them.
Sometimes clouds keep planes earthbound,
but not today’s clouds.
They hold no rain. 
I hear, though, during a news break
from the football game on the bar monitors,
that monsoons prevented planes from landing
at Sky Harbor in Phoenix yesterday.                                                             
Rains flooded Skunk Creek and stopped traffic
on the interstate north of the city. 

I grew up in Phoenix.
I’ve seen flash floods overflow the Salt River—
furious red-brown water pounding
under the Central Avenue Bridge,
tugging at Sonoran desert scrub,
chaparral, and mesquite.
I’ve seen it overrun the grasses—
the scaly buttons and silver daisy,
the sheep sorrel and cat’s ear,
the white clover.
I’ve stood nearby and watched the water
consume all of it. 

I’ve seen the deep cuts in the earth
after the water rampages through
and the riverbed has drunk what it can,
has swallowed all the fury it can absorb,
then opens new arms to lie in the sun
and be renewed.
Here in the Melody Bar,
with him holding me
against hot light,
the right angles
of my arms soften.

I lift my head and meet his eyes.
“I’m lonely,” I say.
“When I feel I belong, it never lasts.”
Sweat beads above my lip.
I taste the salt.
The torture of perfection
has cut me enough.
I no longer yearn for it.
Finally, the sun drops below the window pane.
He tilts my head towards his.
My breath glistens on the inside of my lenses.
I can’t see anything but the lights of an airplane
coming straight at me.


* * * * *


Lisa Segal, a poet/writer/artist, has lived in Los Angeles for more than thirty years. "THE TRAPPED BIRD" was first published in her book, METAMORPHOSIS:  Who is the Maker? An Artist’s Statement (published by Bombshelter Press <http://www.bombshelterpress.com>), which includes her poetry, prose, and photographs of her sculptures. She won the 2017 Los Angeles Poet Society Poetry Month Contest. She teaches poetry and writing as part of the Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective and is a member of StudioEleven, an artist-run cooperative. Her poems appear, or are forthcoming, in Cultural WeeklyServing House Journal, The Mas Tequila Review, SpectrumONTHEBUS, Poeticdiversity, FRE&D and elsewhere.

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