Issue January 22, 2013

Literary LEO 2013

Poetry — Honorable Mention

Accidental Upgrade: Wish You Were Here

BY JEAN TUCKER

You should see
the sleek leather recliners with fold-out video screen,
the black-vested attendants plying the aisles
with trays of steaming hand towels
piled into pyramids

Your mouth would water
at the seared ahi-ahi appetizer
and the rare roast beef cold plate with baby asparagus
You’d love the personal salt-and-pepper shakers fused together
like miniature siamese twin nuns — one white, the other charcoal gray,
each halo a pull tab that reveals the sprinkle holes
and when the salad is finished, how the toasted pine nuts
vie to outsparkle the candied cranberries
on the black lacquer plate

You should hear the little snores of the other passengers
at ease now in headrests like giant padded spoons,
quilted comforters tucked around their chins

If you were here, we would sneak back through the heavy curtain
after the cabin lights have dimmed
and the attendants kicked off their high heels
in the aft galley
We would pry open the wine bin amidship
and pour some champagne

For the lean sunburnt goddess in seat 26D,
her hair tangled like a goatherd’s
as she tells in a telegraphic tongue, mostly nouns and adverbs,
that this is her first ever voyage, then recites
the litany of vegetables (and some of the meats)
that her father and uncle cook in their island taverna

For the mother giving a bottle to the baby
in a bassinet affixed to the bulkhead
and with the other hand draping a flimsy airline blanket
around the toddler who has just now
cried himself to sleep with ear pain

For the white-haired man in an argyle sweater
who over the sleeping boy’s head
shows off an accordion of wallet photos —
his own nest of grandchildren
in the town a thousand miles back —
while stabilizing between his feet a diaper bag
upon which balances
a carton of chocolate milk with the straw sticking out
flanked by a tiny pair of pale pink shoes.