Sim Sala Bim by Gina Williams
“‘Is this all there is?’
The question caught me off guard for a split second, sucked a little bit of air from my gut…”
Where We Are by Jared Yates Sexton
“The thing that really got her was how I listened to records all hours of the night. She said she didn’t care about my moods, my general nihilism or ill temperament…”
Hunger, Not Tame by Sheila Lamb
“Brutal wind beat against the door of her camper. The cold didn’t bother her—Kate had only ever lived in cold and windy environments—but the sand did…”
Waiting for Flight by Michael Chin
“Carl Perkins spied his son’s ex, Lucy, in the airport terminal…”
Misfire by Joe Oestriech
“An hour after load-out, Biggie pulls the Econoline into the parking lot of the Raleigh Fairfield Inn…”
What of the Raven, What of the Dove by Randon Billings Noble
“A story was growing inside my neck but I didn’t yet know what it said…”
The Line by Amy Collini
“The week before I leave for freshman orientation at Ohio State, my father offers me a gift: an “in” at the plant where he works…”
Moth in the House by Jessica Greenbaum
“Skimming the wood floor like a bi-plane over the November fields,
might wonder where the breeze went, and all the chorus and lilt of the leaves…”
Bubble by Jessica Greenbaum
“Walking through the park, I saw a grackle ferrying a
bubble in its beak as it flew to the tree top where…”
Back Seat Event by Gabrielle Freeman
“I want to kiss you, but
I open the car door, and it is raining…”
Those Birds by Michael Colonnese
“Lined up on the wire,
Everything She Can’t See by Liz Ahl
“The little girl is full of questions
and asks them all, one after another…”
Waterfront Metro Station by Elizabeth Acevedo
“through the speakers
the conductor’s voice scratched
a stop away from mine…”
The little girl is full of questions
and asks them all, one after another,
as if, having waited the full four years
of her life so far, she can’t keep them down
Can we call Daddy?
Two rows ahead, I eavesdrop on the girl
and her mother, traveling with me
this New Year’s Eve. It’s boarding time,
the plane still tethered to the terminal,
passengers still cramming carry-on bags
into the overhead bins and snapping them shut.
Tomorrow, the year 2000 will emerge
from the merely theoretical. Tonight, this plane’s
only half-full. I imagine everyone on the ground
battened down for disaster, for the worst-case
scenario even worse than this last year’s buzz
of computer crashes, power grids de-gridding,
nuclear meltdowns, haywire missiles, anthrax bombs.
But us—we’re flying tonight, each for reasons
we hold tightly against imagined calamity.
That’s the luggage. They put our bags
on the airplane. Can you see our bags?
That’s the safety instruction card.
It shows you all about the plane.
That’s the raft. If the plane lands on water,
we get to go on the big yellow raft.
Doesn’t that look fun?
Mother and daughter go through a lively list
more thorough than the flight attendant’s
quick, robotic performance—oxygen mask,
life jacket, smoke detector, seat cushion.
The mother is so patient, as if she, too,
has been waiting for her daughter’s awakening.
They catalogue the plane, learn each piece.
Finally, the telescopic corridor retracts,
and the plane begins to move. After long moments
of taxiing, pausing, waiting our turn:
I can’t see the airplane!
An hour earlier, Mom must have shown her
this plane, through the plate glass.
There’s our airplane, she must have said.
Can you see our airplane? We’ll get on the airplane
to go see Daddy. And the girl must have seen
that it was enormous and beautiful, and already
the questions must have been churning inside her.
I can’t see the airplane!
Honey, Mom says, we’re in the airplane.
In quarantine after being the second man
to leave his boot prints on the moon,
Buzz Aldrin watched footage of the celebrations—
moon parties, throngs in Times Square, billions
glued to TVs inside of which he bounced in the dust.
There were barbecues, cocktail parties, dances,
debates, dire predictions—meanwhile, he and Neil,
hundreds of thousands of miles away, alone
and bagging lunar samples. And Collins,
in the command module, the farthest away
from all of us on the far side, orbiting solo,
photographing earthrise—all of humanity
(minus him) in one picture.
Neil, Buzz said, we missed the whole thing.
The girl is quiet for a bit—working, I imagine,
on this conundrum—the problem of perspective—
until the flight attendant comes with pretzels and pop,
and then she snaps back, new questions about
the beverage cart and the bottle opener and the tray-table
all tickling the back of her throat: the loneliness
of not knowing, the thrill of asking,
the intoxication of answers filling her up,
the joy of naming everything she can see,
the delirious immensity of everything she can’t,
everything that surrounds and contains her,
holds her, carries her home.