To Ireland, To Bethlehem
The plane is packed and over sweaty heads,
rumpled hair, the movie glows in the transatlantic nighttime
murmur of priests and nuns and Riverdancers returning
home—a baby is cooed by an older mother, a boy feels
for his seat in the dark. I’ve read my books
already, 2 days travelling, the difficulties
technical. I hate that money, says the priest beside me,
and he orders another scotch, his third.
The Feast of the Epiphany tomorrow, he studies religious
journals for a message, writes in a notebook
impossibly small. We are having problems
with sound, the flight attendant announces,
it is not your headset, and so the oceans swell in silence,
bright blue tumbles across the screen mutely, foam
collapsing over a tiny nimble figure
but she darts through to a green glow,
sunshine through the veil of wave. Her surfboard is tense between
her feet and the world’s largest ocean. Her ride
is long, impossibly long—her hips stay low, a friend
drops onto her wave and, together, they glide towards the shore.
No music. Just water and that blue. I check the SkyMall catalogue
for something I might need and didn’t know. There are
reasons I am flying over the ocean, reasons I
I wish I were sure of. Someday I might say Yes, I chose
him, and it wasn’t wise. Or maybe we’ll be old and
surrounded by our own. The screen flashes;
the surf is wild, but the bright sky makes me whisper
Hawaii, where nothing could be that beautiful
but is. The waves are bigger and she sets out, flowered
bikini, hair pulled back in a serious bun.
But too soon she’s underwater, arms above her head,
spinning down into a champagne sea.
The priest asks would I like some English chocolate. I say no
at first and then say yes. I say,
How many Euros for the scotch? The baby Jesus
is about to be adored by black men, foreign kings, in
fact, tomorrow. They’re stumbling, the Magi,
12 days across an ocean and through the desert.
It’s hot so they must travel at night—
who wouldn’t? And there was that star, sudden and perhaps a sign.
We’ve already tried to get there once,
I want to say to the kings. It’s cool in this 747,
which later the pilot will land with only one engine.
A problem with
compressors. But what a sweet,
sweet ocean, and those few younger girls
who try to ride it. And what a night,
warmed by the sun-shocked smell
of saddle and sweat, the strong breath of camels.
What carved, fragrant trunkfulls
born across deserts and ready to be opened before an infant god.
To Ireland, To Bethlehem first appeared in Hunger Mountain, Spring 2007.