I wrote this a few months back; today it is my third entry for the 5-Day Poetry Challenge. [EDIT: the formatting is fixed!!]
“hens staring upward,” by Eric Robert Nolan
fleeing me so frequently at Atlantic City.
It happens every night now.
over at the slot machine you occupied and only see
some strange man, finer than I am, and industrious.
All the ringing bells announce
All the flashing lights
strobe his sharper features.
It makes me wake and makes me
artlessly craft a
hard discordant poetry.
Remember Atlantic City?
We took a flight despite its easy drive.
It’s a funny word, “flight.”
It can mean
to seize the sky as the cardinal might
and the hen cannot –
the conquest, the flashing red ascent to sky and space.
Or it can mean departure,
as one escapes from another.
three times a week
I am at that strange and nameless airport in my sleep
where the planes will not take flight.
High white walls vault up.
The hangars all are locked and vacant.
Clocks speed backward.
clutch and curse at suitcases.
The bathrooms smell like beer.
Other would-be passengers
harbor nascent aneuryisms.
Children chatter like hectic apes.
Their fathers all are drunk, their mothers
suffer black and scandalous sudden miracles in the airport lounge,
each reaching orgasm
at the taste of stale sandwiches.
Convulsing, their eyes roll back
Their slow moans hasten into screams,
Their slim arms raised, but
Indolent husbands with rictus grins
will only clutch at their jackets,
at hidden iron flasks.
All the long lines lead
only to exits.
All the flight announcements
are harshly lit in dead and inscrutable languages:
or Latin’s various precursors:
embittered early Germanic and
Only two words are clear:
I need to fly to you.
I need to see you in person but
the attendants in my nightmare all
are comatose at the counters.
Sleeping pilots sag in chairs.
In an airport bar,
the dead slouch over snifters.
A bartender is bones.
Down a white corridor
A stewardess in sing-song voice
will wrongly remember a verse and reduce
Dante to gibberish.
Shakespeare is made as profane
as a syphilitic kiss.
On her lips, Eliot
becomes a barking dog.
My ticket is illegible –
its scrawled words
read like the bray of an ass,
or my own words.
You left me once.
in the various safe and certain places free of sadness found
in the attention of better men.
It was human for you to leave me once
But cruel for you to do so
over and over and over in my dreams.
Upon waking I can only console
myself with stilted meter
and the misspelled names of cities.
unsaved by my similes,
mere alliteration and unmeasured verse in an amateur’s awkward
clutch of unkempt metaphors,
the thinly veiled and even conscious
failed emulation of Auden,
the maudlin, the guttural hen
aspiring to such song as only the cardinal is capable.
words to me are now familiar nocturnes.
Stars will nightly light your verbs.
Every waning moon will arc
over your exact nouns and careful platitudes,
Your eloquence in leaving me,
The precision in “goodbye.”
The flashing rebuke in the narrowing blue
of your eyes is concise.
The blue-black and deepening, freezing dark violet
of heaven will always observe your departure,
your ordered logic.
Its witness is the vacuum.
Its witness is the endless expanse of space.
but my words
are only hens with dull black eyes –
hens staring upward –
beholding the sky and its occasional
darting scarlet of cardinals in flight.
but my words
are only untidy, unmannered motifs –
as devoid of hope or order as
feral children in the snow, starving in a March forest.
(c) Eric Robert Nolan 2015
Photo credit: “Helsinki-Vantaa Airport departure hall 2, international terminal,” self-published work by Antti Havukainen, via Wikimedia Commons