A Poem By Dean Rader

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

Sitting in the Cell Phone Waiting Lot at the San Francisco Airport, Awaiting My Father’s Arrival, I Write a Poem on the Day of Prince’s Death

Every streetlight is a slightly different hue 
of white the squares like the blank faces of robots

offer the Hondas and Toyotas idling in the lot something
like hope and yet I am thinking of all of the people on the planes

landing and taking off the twin miracles of arrival and departure
each of them singing “Take Me With You” whether they know

the song or not they are all singing: the pilots the flight attendants
the air traffic controllers the baggage handlers the men and women

with those colored sticks that look like little light sabers 
guiding the planes out to the runway where everyone on board leaves

everyone behind and lifts once more into darkness
which is to say that the dead are tired of all the dying and yet it seems

never to stop the most recent plane crash was only seven
days ago when a Sunbird Aviation plane slammed

into the ground just before landing killing all passengers
when I fly I often think about what people do or say

seconds before impact no doubt believing they will somehow
survive that this can’t possibly be the end not me not now not like this

but not my father who is I believe asleep on the plane as the complex physics 
of lift keep his steel machine of 75 tons buoyant in the blackness below

God’s feet and even though my father has never heard a song by 
Prince Rogers Nelson he finds himself mouthing I don’t care pretty baby

as the jet is slapped by turbulence and he begins to fear for the first
time on this journey but mostly because he starts to believe that flight

is a metaphor for life and that just like dancing or loving or even 
riding in an elevator we never know what determines if we fall

Dean Rader’s Works & Days won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. The Barnes & Noble Review named Landscape Portrait Figure Form a Best Poetry Book of the Year. Suture with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press) and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon) are forthcoming in 2017.