July 20, 2014

Megan Collins


I think about the toothbrushes, tucked in their travel packs
like snug children. I think about the pairs of underwear,
counted to match the number of days away. I wonder
what books the passengers were reading, if the authors
ever considered their words might turn to kindling, or if
it’s true what people say—that stories survive us all.

I can’t envision the bodies, but I can imagine passports
and receipts, the in-flight magazines that barely get a glance.
I can feel the plastic wrappings of airport snacks, how they
sometimes slip beneath fingertips just before they’re torn apart.
I think about seat backs and tray tables in their upright and locked
positions; I think of wedding rings twirled, feet set on the floor.

Then I picture the wings reattaching to the plane, which arcs back
into the sky, swallowing its own smoke as it goes. I picture the pages
of books being turned in reverse, the endings getting farther and farther
away. I picture the kisses that saw each person off that morning, watch
the couples’ eyelids slide to a close once more. Then, while they still
have moments to spare, their lips come together like hands in prayer.

Poets Respond
July 20, 2014

[download audio]


Megan Collins: “When I heard that nearly 300 people died in the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Ukraine on Thursday, I couldn’t comprehend the size of that loss. Three hundred people is more than went to my high school at one time, but that number still felt too abstract to me. I found that I could only fathom the weight of that tragedy by thinking of it in terms of its smallest parts—the items that everyone packs, the familiar routines of a flight, and the goodbyes that nobody ever anticipates will be final. Focusing on these things brought the situation to light for me: these people, who’d packed up their things and held onto boarding passes with their destinations written on them, had believed that their lives would go on.”

Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of a new project in which poets respond to current events. A poem written within the last week about an event that occurred within the last week will appear every Sunday at Rattle.com. To have your own poem considered for next week’s posting, submit it here before midnight Friday PST. 

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