Halfway Home

1 December 2013

Vancouver to Sydney, Monday 8 May 2012

Dawn breaks for three hours straight along the wing
Of a 747, six thousand miles behind me, two thousand
Miles to go, Pentecost Island like a small light off the tip
Of the port wing.
While I lay across three seats impersonating
Sleep, a whole day disappeared; it happens all the time. The sea
Is blue and legioned and steep with days, and it’s fifteen hours
Across. The Pacific is an isobaric book of tides beneath
Me that has swallowed up where I’ve been.
But as long as my watch
Tells me the time I left behind, I’m still halfway there: midday
Tuesday in Vancouver; five a.m. Wednesday in Sydney; no time
At all where I am, thirty-six thousand feet above Noumea.
You step into an airport near midnight and mountains fall
Away. Everywhere you’ve been, shut like a child’s pop-up
Book, till the next time someone picks it up.
Your old life
Ahead of you yet, waking without you; you’re a thicket
Of afterthought, swimming home in high cloud.
But home
Is a fable, too, from this height, and you hang stateless, Aeneas
On a string that no one holds. You’re rowing home high in a medium
As mythic and elegant as Virgilian hexameter.
Nearing home
Is like remembering the future, and you’re hungry to make it
New this time, truer than how it’s ever run before.
But everything of course—once one lands—
Will be much the way it was.
Nearing home,
You’re a ghost walking out of rehab, stepping back
Into a body you cloaked while your inner life wandered
The peneplain; you’re putting on old clothes now
At thirty thousand feet and trying to stand up in them again.
Dawn’s still breaking hours later, when time starts to remember
Itself. History resumes, the sea resolves to come to an end; you tighten
Your belt and feel the plane relent.
Home is an island
Below you now, clouds bivouacked along its eastern shore; home
Is a theatre of war in its own aftermath, and an army of other ghosts
Is massed there, waiting for the right wind
to carry them way back out beyond their depth.

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