First Flight to Denver
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
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