Poetry: Martin Ott

High Above the Airport

Imagine you’re a decorated pilot
descending from a dogfight.
No, a child with paper wings
plunging spellbound toward earth.
The sky is gray, the wind whistling
nursery rhymes. Below you, planes
taxi in a long line like polite school
children waiting to learn the secret
behind the Easter Bunny and Saint
Nicholas. Imagine you’ve already
reached the zenith and there’s no
place left to go but down among ant
people and ant cars. Above, ducks
zigzag in formation, no leaders,
no followers, death surely below.
Imagine you’re a tired leaf leaping
from the boughs of a silver maple,
or a woman’s ripe belly descending,
both acts monumental, meaningless,
frozen in time. You understand now
that flying is perilous, waxen wings
melting in a sun, a fireball melting
the beams of skyscrapers, emptiness,
smoke. As you near the lit runway,
the planes jockey like pigeons pecking
each other’s eyes. We dream about
falling as children, defining ground
and sky. As you finally touch down,
you wake to find your neck is stiff,
your mouth dry. Below, there are no
winged wonders, no leaping super
heroes to prop us on our clouds,
just a plane full of strangers
clutching armrests like hands.


A black birch sapling catches
an early September snowfall
outside of the family goldmine,
bending the branches into gnarled

limbs that stunt its growth.
Year after year, the men
In my family take their clan
out to spend vacation mining

for the untapped vein that will
rain gold onto our ancestors’ eyes.
The misshapen tree guards the airfield
and stands watch over the pilings,

blueberry fields and moose crossing.
One night, when my grandfather
hugged the stunted birch at moonfall,
boots stamping against permafrost,

I could not tell if the warped wood
swallowed the man, or if we were
just hardened by the curves of Alaska
folding over us another season.