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Fear of Flying

October 29, 2009 

By: Adrienne Su

They’re sure of it: by hugging the ground
they will avert the day it swallows them.
As children, they were never thrilled

by the ungainly cart of cans and spoons,
the miniature lasagna and squares of cake.
When the oxygen masks dropped down

in the safety video, they heard a voice
instructing their parents: “Put a mask
on yourself before assisting those

who will never get over the sight
of a city through a film of cloud-matter
and the knowledge that their flight

was engineered by an imperfect species,
able only to fasten their seat belts
and pray to a deity in whom their belief

is as frail as their comprehension
of the forces that keep us aloft. Come
to think of it, don’t bother to assist them.”

On earth, with books, they’re equally diffident.
Oddly, they favor airport reading. Books
with unhappy endings (say, Oedipus Rex) awaken

only righteous frustration: It was all his fault!
He should have sworn off sex and death—
he should have stayed home and not gone out

for anything, not to send a package or order
a pizza, or whatever they ate in those days,
to avoid the likelihood of running his father

down by mistake on the road to the pizzeria,
where some spectacular, lonely female
might be waiting to seduce him (Jocasta

could cook) with a primitive version
of, say, the Margherita – basil, tomatoes,
and mozzarella on a round of bread so thin

he wouldn’t know it was leavened,
just as he wouldn’t know, from any amount
of experience, that this was the woman.

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