Thursday, April 24, 2003

This is what happens when you take a notebook with you to lunch...

"The View From Airplanes"
(1st draft, free write)

From the air
I remember the city of brotherly love
mostly for the fact that
I don't remember it at all.

Like movies filmed in Vancouver
images of buildings not tall enough
to be New York
I do remember how close they seemed
when we hit the air pocket
dropped a couple of hundred feet
and wondered what the news coverage would be
for a commuter plane crash killing
six of the United States Army's newest
recruits at the tail end of Desert Storm.

A ragtag lot
when asked why we'd joined
not one of us answered
"To serve our country."
instead, offering
"college money"
"three kids"
"lost my job"
"my father"
"the judge"
or, in my case,
"I was broke."

Twenty dollars to my name
twenty-one years under my belt
I'd spent a few thousand and a few months
looking for myself in the bottoms of
too many glasses, the hearts
of too many strippers.

In high school
a few wine coolers and cigarettes
were as bad as I got.

In Miami,
Long Island Iced Teas and weed.

In the Army,
Mad Dog, a pack a day and sex.

Lost my virginity at 16
to my girlfriend, in her bed
while her mother worked.

Lost it again at 20
to a 33-year old case of mistaken identity
in her bed, while her 5-year old slept.

I played with him over breakfast
before leaving the next morning
never exchanging names,
she still thinking I was someone else,
me wondering how the hell I'd ended up in Staten Island.

From the air
you can see the grid of Manhattan
look straight up 34th Street
past the Empire State Building
and into the East River.

At night
it is a galaxy
hiding a black hole
that will always suck you back in.

In Kentucky
the night is black.

Standing in the doorway of a C-130
awaiting the signal to "GO!"
numb fingers grip cold metal in fear
my eyes groping the night sky for a sign.

I jump a split second before
the boot lands on my backside
count to four mississippi
and relish the tug of my chute inflating.

The trust we place in things
far exceeds that we place in others.

We are both drunk
when she pulls out the video camera.

Close friends for the three hours
since me met, realizing
we shared the exact same birthday,
she was getting out the next day
after five years of service.

She outranked me
and I have no idea what ended up
on the videotape.

What would have been my 13th jump
was canceled because of weather.

Hungover from the night before
my first blackout
my contacts dried out
clothes still on
no memory of the stripper
the private dance
the vomit
only the lingering stench of
southern comfort
and rock bottom.

I've left more places by bus than plane.

The view is better
and it's less of a jump to the ground.

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