by Joan Colby

Up on the rimrocks,
in the airport restroom
we say goodbye, best friends,
only a death will hurl me skyward
and you are weeping, perceiving
I won’t return even as I promise to.

I’m fifteen, such decisions are beyond my will.
Slag from the mills glows across the street
from my grandfather’s house. So small
all those children must have used up the air
huddling around the parlor stove before
grandfather jacked the place up and dug a cellar
where the boiler I remember rattled that heat upwards
to the blazing radiators. They were old
and always cold, always wearing sweaters.

Airbone, I contemplate none of this. We’ve encountered
a storm that bounces the prop plane
like a tennis ball. Some passengers are vomiting
but I think it is exciting as a roller coaster.

Dawn, when we land on the tarmac,
here’s my family anticipating tears
I’m taken by surprise, later, at
the cemetery, when as the coffin lowers
they appear, choking, my nose running.

But prior to that, I’m composing
a letter to you; how we’ll be cheerleaders
next year, you’ll illustrate my stories,
we’ll ride in the foothills and scorn your mother’s
warnings about boys and liquor.

I can’t imagine over the coming years
and the letters flying cross-country
like the DC-8 that we won’t soon
meet again. But we never do.

PHOTO: “Shadow of DC-8 flying over frozen Bering Sea” (NASA, 2008).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.