“How I Fathom the Crash” by Megan Collins

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.

from Poets Respond
July 20, 2014


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.”

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