First Flight to Denver

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A stranger, some family friend 
extending a favor, passed 
the small paper bag from the seatpocket
on the ascent over the Rockies.
I swallowed back but heaved.

Chagrined and silent we waited,
shoulder to shoulder to land.

The 1946 June night was flat
against the window and as always,
I wrapped myself in quiet. 
This silence was the worst, that taste
soiled my lips, I didn’t dare lift my eyes. 

The propeller finally stopped, 
the DC-3 door
clanked as it was lifted. 
Head spinning I descended
to the tarmac to my father 
shadowy against the lights.

He was a stranger, we hadn’t yet met. 
I was small for ten, so he knelt 
to my height held my hand, skimmed 
my cheek, his cool lips and a narrow 
brown moustache--

Then he stood, 
said thank-you with a handshake.

My companion disappeared 
through the terminal’s glass door
without a backward glance. 

—Carol Levin, Seattle, WA