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BooksDecember 11, 2020

The Friday Poem: Under the Flight Path by Jennifer Compton

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A poem by Melbourne-based New Zealand poet Jennifer Compton.

Under the Flight Path

I raise my glass of wine to the silence of the midnight curfew.

I am minding house in the inner west for my son and his girlfriend as they
jet off to Helsinki. I have been driven out of the house into the rakish back
garden because I smoke. It’s not the worst thing that anyone has ever done
but it is bad enough.

I am sitting in a cane chair under the struggling tree. I don’t know its variety
but it is not a robust example. Here and there around the patch of yard it has
heaved up random bricks.

In the morning I sit and I smoke and I drink my tea. I watch the horizontal
progression of planes on the skyline coming in to land. One after another.
One after another. One after one after one after another. I try to hold them
safe in my mind. A single moment of inattention and what a terrible thing
I would see.

I usually sight the morning ibis, just after eight, steadily beating their way
straight overhead. They seem to glance down. I never sight the evening ibis.
I don’t know why.

In the afternoon I sit and I drink my coffee and I smoke. The flight path has
changed. Now the planes are diving in with a roar and a stink and at a steep
angle across the very top of me. I can almost reach up and stroke the bellies
of the planes. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people are flying into
this city every day. Soon two of the people will be my son and his girlfriend.
I will look up and keep them safe.

At around about midnight I take a bottle of wine out into the garden. I wait
for the last plane. Slowly, slowly, slowly I become aware that the last plane
was the last plane. The night stretches out around this dwelling and all that
it contains. The tree shrugs and lifts and starts to quiver. The headlights of
the cars turning behind the slatted fence catch hold of each toss and tremble
and project a moving panorama across the laundry wall. It sweeps from side
to side. It vaunts up over the roof. It returns into a vivid pattern of stillness.
It begins again to transmute into another way of being.

I watch the show. I raise my glass of wine.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again in early 2021.

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