Finalist, 2015

Cultural Weekly Poetry Contest

published by Writing in a Woman's Voice

RIVERBED PLANES

It’s the planes.

They take him from me.

In the Melody Bar and Grill,

across from the runway at LAX,

we see the planes touch down

as the August sun drops into the Pacific.

Tonight he will get on a plane

and leave me again.

The sun angles into our eyes,

sits on our shoulders,

melts us as we sit

in the bar’s red-flocked darkness.

He cradles my skull in his hands,

his grasp firm, yet light,

like when he guides my head

up and down in his lap,

but this time he uses me

as a shield against the sun.

 

“You’re wet,” he says.

He’s right.

Every part of me is humid.

My reading glasses have fogged.

Embarrassed, I look down,

pretend to scan his itinerary another time.

I don’t meet him that often anymore.

He always returns the parts of me

I try to leave behind. 

 

I live near the flight path.

From my balcony I watch the planes

arrive one after the other.

They’re beautiful at night,

their landing lights a string of pearls

stretching back to infinity.

Once in a while the moon

is strung amongst them.

Sometimes clouds keep planes earthbound,

but not today’s clouds.

They hold no rain. 

I hear, though, during a news break

from the football game on the bar monitors,

that monsoons prevented planes from landing

at Sky Harbor in Phoenix yesterday.                                                             

Rains flooded Skunk Creek and stopped traffic

on the interstate north of the city. 

 

I grew up in Phoenix.

I’ve seen flash floods overflow the Salt River—

furious red-brown water pounding

under the Central Avenue Bridge,

tugging at Sonoran desert scrub,

chaparral, and mesquite.

I’ve seen it overrun the grasses—

the scaly buttons and silver daisy,

the sheep sorrel and cat’s ear,

the white clover.

I’ve stood nearby and watched the water

consume all of it. 

 

I’ve seen the deep cuts in the earth

after the water rampages through

and the riverbed has drunk what it can,

has swallowed all the fury it can absorb,

then opens new arms to lie in the sun

and be renewed.

Here in the Melody Bar,

with him holding me

against hot light,

the right angles

of my arms soften.

 

I lift my head and meet his eyes.

“I’m lonely,” I say.

“When I feel I belong, it never lasts.”

Sweat beads above my lip.

I taste the salt.

The torture of perfection

has cut me enough.

I no longer yearn for it.

Finally, the sun drops below the window pane.

He tilts my head towards his.

My breath glistens on the inside of my lenses.

I can’t see anything but the lights of an airplane

coming straight at me.

© 2015 Lisa Segal

© 2018 Lisa R. Segal