Airport in the Sky
Airport in the Sky
by Betsy Mars

The jeep rounds a bend and there it is:
a field of metal moths resting
atop the domed hill.
How many wrecked their lives
trying to get here?
To the grill and gift shop,
with its warm cookies
and buffalo burgers –
rewards for those who stick
their landings, and thrills
for us as we watch them circle.
Some come in a little too high
to stop on the short runway,
have to stay up among the hovering clouds.
They skip over the slipstream,
accelerate and rise, attempt it again
on a wisp of adrenaline and a twist
in their wrist, a delicate sense
of airspeed and velocity, taking care
of the downdraft. She comes in low
and lands it this time, steps out
of the cockpit so proud
to be on top of this small world.
I remember when I almost felt like that.

PHOTO: Terminal of Catalina Airport, also known as Airport in the Sky, Los Angeles County, California, by Betsy Mars, October 2019.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Catalina Airport runway was built in 1941 by chewing gum tycoon Philip Wrigley, who leveled two adjacent hilltops and filled the canyon between them. The private runway was not available for public use until the terminal opened in 1946. Before the airport’s construction, the only scheduled passenger air service to the island was provided by seaplanes. Catalina Island is located in the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles southwest of Los Angeles. (Source: Wikipedia.) 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am currently a homebound, frustrated travel lover, and it took me a while to settle on just one landmark to write about. Someone brought up having sailed to Catalina Island recently, which planted a seed. Catalina Island is sometimes visible from the beach near where I live, but it feels like a world away. Last October, when I had my book launch, a poet friend came out from Ohio and we went to Catalina — my first trip in at least a decade. We took an ecotour in a jeep, and he was so tickled by the Airport in the Sky. I woke up in the night a couple of days ago thinking about that, and how I had once landed there in a small plane (passenger, not pilot), and how nerve-wracking it was, given the length and design of the runway. Maybe under lockdown I am feeling especially isolated and that my wings have been clipped, so to speak, but I think it’s also a perspective on persistence and success, with a bit of a reflection on aging thrown in.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At Zamperini Field in Torrance, California, I’m standing at left with French visitors in (yikes) 1981? and small plane that we may or may not have taken to Catalina.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and an occasional publisher. She founded Kingly Street Press and published her first anthology Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife in October 2019. Her work has recently appeared in The Blue Nib, Live Encounters, and The New Verse News. Her chapbook Alinea was released in January 2019. In the Muddle of the Night, her collection written with Alan Walowitz, is coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at marmyst.wordpress.com, and find her on Facebook and on Twitter.