Monday, November 3, 2008

Leaving Houston...

I had occasion to make a cross-country trip several years ago. Transferring flights in Texas, I made these observations.

Hunkering down I pass under low ceilings
Turning sideways down the narrow aisle.
I wait as the woman in front of me rams and jams
Her last carry-on bag into the overhead compartment.
Moving on, I find my seat, halfway back on the port side.
"Ask for a window and they give you a wing,"
I chuckle to myself as I place my jacket overhead.

Taking my seat and buckling the belt
Cool air hisses through the vent above me;
A bit stale and smelling slightly of disinfectant.
The cabin is quiet yet noisy at the same time
Each sound amplified in the silence.
Electric motors whir from the bulkheads and floor
On again, off again from their secret places.
Muffled voices, almost whispers, can be heard:
Speaking to cell phones or the seat next to them.
The occasional cough or baby’s squeal breaks the silence.
The aircraft rocks now and then, to and fro
Thrown baggage moving the giant avian beast.

A change of pressure in my ears tells me the cabin is sealed
I open my mouth to find relief and look out the window.
"What a strange place for a hearse," I think,
Sitting there on the tarmac with its back door open.
A shiny, gray casket is slid onto a wheeled bier
The handlers slow and deliberate in their movements.
It dawns on me that someone is making a last trip home
As they slowly move under the belly of the aircraft.
A final thud and the last compartment is closed.

Closed…. the word is ringing in my head now.

Closed…. many chapters in many lives have just closed.

My mind wanders in curiosity for a moment or two
At my brothers and sisters here with me today.
How many of them are leaving home for the first time?
Who, like the one in the cargo hold,
Is going home for good?
Some are just passing through, I guess.
Births, deaths, graduations and failures
Marriages, divorces, running to something or from it
New jobs, lost jobs, new loves, lost loves
Or just knocking about seeing new country.
All gathered briefly in this microcosm of humanity
In a common place with a common goal:
Simply to leave here and get there.

We begin to move away from the terminal
Headed for the runway and the sky.
I half listen to the spiel of the flight attendant
As she tells us all the things we will never need to know.
The sudden thrust of the engines hurls us down the runway
One final bump, as the wheels leave the ground, and we are airborne.
Cities, towns and countryside pass far below us.
As we ascend to cruising altitude,I descend into sleep.
My thoughts return to her as I drift away.

The sudden jolt of the wheels touching down
Startle me out of my slumber as I struggle to quickly place myself.
The roar of reversed engines slows the aircraft down.
We leave the runway and taxi toward the terminal.
Coming to a stop at the gate, people begin to shuffle about
Gathering their belongings for departure.
A hearse is backed into place on the tarmac
Its cargo somberly loaded before it drives away.
"Last one on, first one off," I grin to myself
Looking at the crowded aisle before me.
"Maybe being dead ain’t so bad."

Copyright © 2007 Mike Lawson

NOTE: This piece won an award as "Most Original" in a contest over on Writer's Cafe. It beat out 236 other pieces, so I guess that's something. lol


Brandie King said...

Mike, this is a wonderful and very thoughtful poem. Although this might be weird, your poem is making me think about some things in my life. Things that I need to change and things that I need to do before I become the one in the casket.

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Congratulations, Mike. To beat 236 other pieces is really something.
Especially when everyone seems to be writing, something. I enjoyed how you intertwined life with death and everything in between.
Purgatory of life? I think it's called living! Loved it, Mike!
Have a wonderful weekend!

Byron Chesney said...

I'm flying to Vegas this weekend with a layover in Houston. You can bet I'll bet remembering this post. Hopefully there won't be a hearse waiting for me.

Mike said...

Thanks Brandie, and you'll be fine.

And as for you, Mr. Byron. LV, eh? Been there, done that. Tell that long-legged blond behind the bar I said, "Hey". Just a little advise. Keep one hand on your wallet pocket and another near your knife. But, you're from the hills and prolly already had that figured out. Have a good good time. It's a great city. See you when you get back.

Fabian G. Franklin said...

yee haw, this was fun, i bet the dead guy didn't enjoy the ride half as much as me.and i got a real good german switch-lock blade you can borry to take to vegas, lol great write matter what they say at the cafe' :o)

Mike said...

Truth be told, Fab, the dead guy didn't seem impressed one way or the other.