Wisdom From The Air
Poem by Max Reif
A person should be able to make
SOME profound statement
After flying across the continent
30,000 feet in the air, don't you think?
Even an Everest mountaineer
Has nothing on us in terms of altitude.
But each time I disembark from a plane,
The only statements that occur to me
Are 'Sure is a big country! ' and such cliches.
So I generally keep my mouth shut.
This time, though,
I'm determined to say SOMETHING!
Flying above Bryce Canyon, Utah:
Someone's taken in one giant hand a palette
Overflowing with every conceivable shade
On a red to brown scale-
All possible yellows and oranges
Reds and beiges,
Umbers and siennas-
And in the other hand
Huge quantities of rock and sand,
And flung them randomly
Over an inconceivably vast area.
For the first time I really see
What people mean
By 'Southwest Colors'!
Imperceptibly, geography changes
To all-beige, as far as eyes can see.
Suddenly in the middle of this desert incongruously
Appear four of those round, green splotches
I've always assumed are irrigated crops-
Tightly scrunched, a lovely, deep emerald,
Together describing a square, four and only four
Of these strange circles in the wilderness,
No building, no visible road going by.
Half and hour later these mandalas
Begin to appear with more regularity,
As though the four were hardy pioneers.
I try to read the braille of geography:
The patchwork of fields, the dots
Of semi-arid, forested hills,
The bold escarpments.
Sometimes God speaks
Like an abstract expressionist.
I close my eyes to meditate,
Open them awhile later.
Now plump, irregular clouds cast
Mirthful dragon-shadows on the ground,
This new display repeating
Comically to the horizon
The way every pattern has today,
Like computer wallpaper.
Finally, we descend into Dallas,
A mighty, moist green metropolis.
I can almost feel the heat from the air.
In the subdivisions that curl below
Like the tentacles of jellyfish,
Lots of sky-blue swimming pools.
They always paint swimming pools sky-blue,
I suddenly realize. Never bright red.
Never screaming pink or deep purple:
Now there's an insight.
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