Monday, 19 May 2014

Fear of flying and Billy Collins

We all know, of course, that flying is statistically, extremely safe. The journey to the airport is potentially much more dangerous than the journey across a continent. So I'm not afraid of flying.
Intuitively, it should be terrifying; it's reason that subdues the fear, I guess. And - mind-numbing, uncomfortable boredom, but that's another topic.

I was relieved to find that I'm not the only one who also feels that underneath the mundane business of Gate no. 14, Flight no. etc, is an extraordinary reality, one that is potentially pretty damned terrifying!

And so characteristic of Billy Collins, the gentle comedy in the last two lines. He is such a wise, humane presence in my life, for which I'm grateful.


At the gate, I sit in a row of blue seats
with the possible company of my death,
this sprawling miscellany of people—
carry-on bags and paperbacks—
that could be gathered in a flash
into a band of pilgrims on the last open road.
Not that I think
if our plane crumpled into a mountain
we would all ascend together,
holding hands like a ring of skydivers,
into a sudden gasp of brightness,
or that there would be some common place
for us to reunite to jubilize the moment,
some spaceless, pillarless Greece
where we could, at the count of three,
toss our ashes into the sunny air.
It's just that the way that man has his briefcase
so carefully arranged,
the way that girl is cooling her tea,
and the flow of the comb that woman
passes through her daughter's hair ...
and when you consider the altitude,
the secret parts of the engines,
and all the hard water and the deep canyons below ...
well, I just think it would be good if one of us
maybe stood up and said a few words,
or, so as not to involve the police,
at least quietly wrote something down.

Thanks, Mr C.

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