I heard this poem while listening to The Writer’s Almanac on NPR a few weeks ago. I don’t know if it was the mood I was in or something else entirely, but I distinctly remembered feeling like this as a young college student on my own “merciless Midwestern plain.” I was, at once, feeling the familiar feelings of euphoria that ride along with the unknown and a new foreboding and trepidation, knowing that my own darlings will one day feel this way… Who will be there to offer them a timely flying lesson?
Over a tray of spent plates, I confessed
to the college president my plans to go East,
to New York, which I’d not really seen,
though it seemed the right place
for a sophomore as sullen and restless
as I had become on that merciless
Midwestern plain. He slowly stroked
a thick cup and described the nights
when, a theology teacher in Boston, he’d fly
a tiny plane alone out over the ocean,
each time pressing farther into the dark
until the last moment, when he’d turn
toward the coast’s bright spine, how he loved
the way the city glittered beneath him
as he glided gracefully toward it,
engine gasping, fuel needle dead on empty,
the way sweat dampened the back of his neck
when he climbed from the cockpit, giddy.
Buttoned up in my cardigan, young, willing
to lose everything, how could I see generosity
or warning? But now that I’m out here,
his advice comes so clear: fling yourself
farther, and a bit farther each time,
but darling, don’t drop.
from Eve’s Striptease
© University of Pittsburg Press.