“Duct Tape, Sleep, Pretzels” by Susan Browne

Susan Browne


At 35,000 feet, I look out the airplane window
& see duct tape on the propeller.
It reminds me of the human condition
& so does the curly head of the girl next to me 
resting against my shoulder.
At first, it’s uncomfortable
being used as a pillow
& her head is heavy, but I never sleep
on planes anyway & can still read
my book through the corkscrews of her hair. 
Out the window, past the duct tape, the sky 
goes on a journey of freedom
& fearlessness. That’s the human condition, too,
or else no one would ever get on a plane
or have children. The girl shifts in her seat, 
her head snuggles closer to my chest. 
She could be my daughter
although her mother is on her other side
fast asleep. Like being fastened into sleep? 
As if sleep holds you, secure.
My philosophy professor in college told the class
there was no such thing as security.
He leaned out of his chair 
toward us, his face all sharp angles,
his eyes holding the softness
of frayed silk. He killed himself
before he could grade our finals. 
The mother wakes up, looks at me, startled.
Oh, sorry, she says & tries to wake her daughter
with little shoves. It’s okay, I say.
She sighs back into sleep.
I open the pack of pretzels that’s been squashed
in my pocket & eat the broken pieces,
trying not to get crumbs in the girl’s hair.

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020
Students of Kim Addonizio


Susan Browne: “In 1996, I took a workshop with Kim Addonizio in Petaluma, California. I then took workshops with her for the next twenty years. I had found my teacher. She taught me how to revise. She taught me surprise and tension, the music of the line, the power of humor and risk, leaps and how to wait. How to put away the poem and wait a week, a month, a year. She was endlessly encouraging and inspiring, but never easy. I can still hear her saying, ‘That’s not the most compelling language.’ She taught me duende. She is my Queen of Duende.” (web)

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