April 1, 2019

[Video by Blank Verse Films: A Poet’s Space, Episode 3 (Click to view on YouTube)]


Dave Harris


I can’t stop imagining my own death on airplanes. I buckle my seatbelt
and a propeller flies through the window and slices off my arm. I look
as my insides stream from the wound. If this doesn’t happen then later

the plane will fall slowly and smash into a mountain. I am crushed
like a grape inside a fist. My mother asks me to text her every time
I board a plane. I never say I love you, only On the flight! Then

my mind begins the dirty work. Visualizing how this could
kill me. I read that flying is the safest way to cross distance. Safety
requires the accumulation of knowledge. My mother learned my father

was like two different people. His violence snuck up on him,
and neither of them saw it coming. In one moment, he’d fill the fridge
and the next BAM his fist would come crashing down. A split pomegranate

is how I picture my mother’s scalp, before the stitches. Burst open.
I shouldn’t say that like I was there. I was barely a year. It doesn’t cost
my body to imagine. Not really. I know the body is fragile by what I learned

was done to my mother’s. The price of a lesson: to describe
what happened so that it might not happen again. An SOS
in the sand. He lifted her up into the sky and held her there, gasping.

There it is again. I don’t know what came over me. Sometimes,
you make me so angry I just lose control. The pilot loses control
and the whole plane rattles. I watch the babies cry. The last time

I saw my father was at an airport. Last can have so many meanings.
Final. Most recent. Endure. Please stay. I stay
ahead of all the ways I could hurt a person, and fly off before they happen.

The people I love say I leave and make them feel so far away.
I didn’t mean to do that. I worry that if I feel too much I’ll go mad
and set the world aflower with something utterly unpredictable.

Can you believe that? I am the stranger in the middle seat, bowed by turbulence,
gripping wildly in the dark for your hand. Whispering, will it hurt.
I don’t want to die. I can see it so clearly.

Sometimes this happens. Sometimes the arm lashes out
in ways that feel almost instinctive. Please, don’t take me
at my word. I always mean to say I’m sorry.

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018
Rattle Poetry Prize Winner


Dave Harris: “I started this poem on an airplane flying to a warmer city. I don’t have a fear of flight, but I do have a vivid imagination. I think about imagination and empathy a lot. The imaginative work of figuring out why someone is the way they are. Questions that lead only to more questions. But I think there is a price to that, too. An obsession. To bring the world near, all its lovely wounds, and see your way through. I’m being vague by choice. A poem is a poem, and life is life. But everything does become a story at some point. A way into a feeling we once had, or a way of transferring a feeling to someone who may need it. When I write, I am trying to find my fears and hold them closer. I don’t always know what comes after that. But I owe it to my mind to keep chasing those voices until I have arrived somewhere else.” (web)

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