Airborne

by Jennifer Highland

For Arthur Benjamin, on TWA flight 800, June 1996

The newspaper tells me you dropped like a stone
when that extraordinary silver bird
split suddenly in two –
plummeted like one of those stubborn mussels
the seagulls drop upon the rocks.

“Technically most of them died by drowning,
although some may have lost consciousness
before they hit the water.”
The magazine tells me there was time
between the blast, the fall, the landing.

I work hard to erase that time,
eliminate any seconds for terror
after the takeoff, when routine cares
were left behind with gravity,
and you turned to your wife and shared a smile
neither had seen in many months.
Paris! A week of art, cafes—in Paris!

Both heads turned to the window, watching
the silver edge of the ocean
as the splendid towers of Manhattan became small
and slid away across the water…
Oblivion came then, without a moment
beyond the flash of a thousand gold fireworks.

They tell me you dropped like a stone, fell
like a soft curled mussel heading for the rocks,
but in my mind I see you
still spreading swiftly in all directions
across the vast prairie of the sky.

Jennifer Highland’s work has appeared in Measure, Atlanta Review, Switched-On Gutenberg, Conclave, and other literary journals.  She practices osteopathy in central New Hampshire.