The Bard in Flight
The former U.S. poet laureate imagines an ideal seatmate
It occurred to me
on a flight from London to Barcelona
that Shakespeare could have written
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England
with more authority had he occupied
the window seat next to me
instead of this businessman from Frankfurt.
As an English major,
I would know how to break the ice,
and once we had a few drinks
and were sharing my ear buds,
he might become so preoccupied
with “Miles Davis at the Blackhawk”
at 36,000 feet over one realm or another
that he wouldn’t want to say or write another word.
I’d let him play with my wristwatch,
the one with the tartan band,
and try to explain the existence of Gertrude Stein,
but he would mostly stare out the oval window
while admiring the pile of ice cubes in his glass.
And he could not hide his fascination
with the announcements from the flight deck
and the ministrations of the bowing attendants—
a sad reminder of how I have gotten used to
the once unimaginable experience
of bulleting through the sky in a silvery rush.
Which is not to say I am
completely insensible to the song
of the turbines as we begin our descent
and the thrill of bouncing
around high above some blessed plot,
while the crockery shifts in the galley,
the passengers grip their armrests,
and the Bard reaches for my hand
as we roar with vibrating wings
through a bank of towering clouds.
From the The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, to be published in October 2016.