Listening to a stranger




My seatmate on the late-night flight
could have been my father. I held
a biography, but he wanted to talk.
The pages closed around my finger
on my spot, and as we inclined
into the sky, we went backwards
in his life, beginning with five hours
before, the funeral for his only brother,
a forgotten necktie in his haste
to catch this plane the other way
just yesterday, his wife at home
caring for a yellow Lab she’d found
along the road by the olive grove,
and the pretty places we had visited—
Ireland for me, Germany for him—
a village where he served his draft
during the Korean War, and would like
to see again to show his wife
how lucky he had been. He talked
to me and so we held
his only brother’s death at bay.
I turned off my reading light,
remembering another veteran
I met in a pine forest years ago
who helped me put my tent up
in the wind. What was I thinking
camping there alone? I was grateful
he kept watch across the way
and served coffee in a blue tin cup.
Like the makeshift shelter of a tent,
a plane is brought down,
but as we folded to the ground,
I had come to appreciate

even my seatmate’s breath, large
and defenseless, the breath of a man
who hadn’t had a good night’s rest.
I listened and kept the poles
from blowing down, and kept
a vigil from the dark to day.

“Arc” by Amy M. Clark


I’ve never attempted to put up a tent in the wind.  Putting up a tent in 72 degree weather with barely a breath of wind is complicated enough for this indoorsman.  But the imagery is perfect- A struggle to build something and protect yourself from the elements is hard enough but when there are gusts that make sheltering more difficult, a second set of hands are a comfort.

Each of us have people in our lives that seem to be constantly battered by gusts.  Some friends are in a storm of life for the moment.  Consider the ways that you can help shelter someone or how you’ve been sheltered recently.  If you need some background music, try Ray LaMontagne’s “Shelter” on.


1 Comment

Filed under Blue poetry (heaven)

One response to “Listening to a stranger

  1. What a great post. And a great poem, too.

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