Boeing 757s, Airbus 320s, An Embraer
We were made to do this:
to wait indefinitely,
to make sure we are in tip-top,
polished shape and cleared
of frost and other obstructions
before we take off,
to get a specified number of human beings
wherever they think they are going, to be
at once mulishly on-task and hyper-responsive
to nuance, to the right statistics’ direction
regarding turbulence, gravity, convection
or freezing rain, whose apparent
shellacking we may shrug off
with not much more
than a bump, a flap, a chemical wash, a cough.
We are aware
that we have younger cousins,
some of whom face mortal danger
if we were to come into contact, skin to skin.
We like to believe we have
no wish to be like them.
We look out at them from above, from our serving-
plate-sized windows, our dozens of wide-lidded eyes.
We do not confide in them. We put on an act.
Each of us plans
to honor our contract.
We can accumulate ice, or get
alarmingly hot underneath.
In sunlight, our fuselages shine like candy,
the kind that can break your teeth.
All of us grew up
in places that look just like this,
except for the weather. Some are so far away
tomorrow there starts halfway through today.
Our first law, or command-
ment, is not to harm
these bipeds who rely on us, who would be strand-
ed in their various nests if we ever aband-
oned them. Although we know they can fit into land-
bound vehicles with tires like ours, we suspect
their sort can only serve our sort.
We do not believe that any of them can leave
their single, fenced-in, assigned-at-assembly airport.
My friends and I have invented—
better to say discovered—a kind of religion,
according to which we are dragons,
voluntarily (our sect has it)
taking into ourselves this diminutive, fragile
but also (as we now know) sentient species
with almost no hide, two eyes,
and thin, vestigial wings,
a species that needs our help just to get in the air.
In return they feed us, and let us
breathe fire, for only as long
as we can keep them all safely up there.
Another denomination, however, has it
that we are really in captivity,
that we have been ensorcelled, that the bars
and primary colors along our spines and tails
have made us forget who we are, that we are not meant
for passengers but for unaided,
unlimited trips around the troposphere,
singing and signaling only to one another,
and that we remain on the ground
in obedient geometrical formations,
queued up and preoccupied, out of habit,
having determined that we ought to follow
other parties’ specifications,
their aging grids and literal guy-wires,
out of an excess of caution, due to the memory
of long-ago collisions, out of respect
for our elderly, who suffer from metal fatigue
and hope to be put on display once they retire,
or for our difficult sisters, who require
spot-welders and wrenches always
at the ready, who cannot take another dent,
or else out of our even simpler fears
of the unknown, or of abandonment.
• • •
Porcupine-Shaped Vessel, Late Canaanite, 13th Century BCE
National Maritime Museum, Haifa
Whoever made me got me
No good in a fight,
I also serve poorly as a conventional pot,
if that is all you want;
my anonymous maker or makers were not
out to fashion amphorae, or ways to store oil, so much
as shaping vessels for the awkward soul.
My snub nose and beach-sand-and-off-white paws will scratch
almost any surface, but cannot grasp even one.
That said, I am proven
useful; I am stable
on even a slightly tilted table
or ceremonial stool, and will
any liquid unless you overfill
me, or fracture my polished inner chamber.
If I had a lid it would fit in one hand.
I have contained and mixed and separated
mace, new wine, water and vinegar, but reserve
my sweetest memories for days
when I was turned over and over, and filled with sand.
I am not quite too small
to be practical, and have lived
through so many smudges, paste-ups, and minor repairs
that I wonder why I was never thrown out.
on such questions has made me aware
that I was formed so as to elicit
not admiration but continual care.
sized divots on my skin,
the thumb’s-width space between body and handle,
pinched off and then mashed
to appear both antique and amateurish,
reflect my Bronze Age shapers’ determination
to leave behind things whose appeal
is neither holy nor martial
but almost adorable, or vulnerable,
the sort of thing that seems to speak, or babble,
directly to you, not as if you had been its first carer,
but rather as if we could be children together,
so that once you are allowed to inspect me,
and learn how fragile I am, how thin
my pomegranate glaze is, which may contain
a priestly inscription, or gold dust, or something else
now precious to some third party, you will begin
to want to bring me home, or at least protect me.