Confessions* by Isaac Randel

The Concorde jets used to fly at 60,000 feet

and saw the curvature of the Earth beneath them

and the black of ancient Chaos above

and they might have been forgiven

for thinking themselves the carriages of Helios,

or as near to them as we might ever build,

we flying apes; but this 737 only reaches 30,000

and now the horizons are all flat, making us only

somewhat grander pigeons.

But Helios above, or his ghost anyway, in the naked ozone,

and clouds below, and us somewhere in between,

you and I, in coach, and this conversation could go

either way; you asked me something right before

turbulence hit. I’m sorry, there’s—

 

The word I need is lodged

in the trachea and I’m too dizzy

to remember what it was you asked,

or why I need suddenly to vomit up these thoughts

into the bag provided in the seatback pocket,

why I am tearing up on a crowded plane—

the usual gag reflex comes up, the

it was a long time ago, the it’s been years

and I have been baptised years since

in the sweat that comes from growing

into the Earth, adjusting the soul’s

internal climate to the Heat outside:

Maturity, I suppose, and so Empathy,

but even I can’t really believe that.

What was it you said? Or asked?

It sounded like a compliment, you said I seemed

like a “nice guy,” and I said no. I wanted

to show you otherwise and now it will not come:

instead, the blackness as oxygen retreats from

the Lungs and Brain, a whole array of colours

now forming in the eyes, like the rainbows

we’d find in the oil puddles in the street

by the house we used to live in and how easily

Guilt pushes away the nostalgia of it,

pushes like, inside that house, my fingers

against her neck, when we were children,

on some imagined insult or grievance,

and the word for it will not come out,

as I’m dry heaving now, thinking whether

it would be better to swallow it back,

not say it at all. I try not to sin against the truth,

avoid one more victim if I can, but there it is:

choke, as the thought of it chokes me, words

hanging soured by stomach acid on my tongue,

like the half-chewed banana in hers,

and you’ll tell me I was a child, blameless,

when all this finally comes out.

You sit there as though about to try the Heimlich

but you’re out of practice, as am I;

you didn’t pay attention in Health Class

and when was the last time you saw someone choking?

More than that, when was the last time

you were called upon as a witness to see

the Furies mangling a man finally

for his transgressions? I don’t blame you—

you couldn’t have predicted it; I didn’t,

anyway, and wouldn’t have chosen a stranger

as a witness if I had. But it’s better

than being alone, before the justices

of the Court of One’s Own Consciousness,

better to have some sort of defence council,

some guiding voice hanging in the air

as the plea bargain signs itself, some

reassuring caress as the gavel descends,

someone to advise against the procedures

taken by some, the inevitable cyanide in the palm,

the hand to the mouth in rehearsed defeat

in the courtroom, found dead in the local paper

the next morning.  But all this is invisible to you.

You see only a— well, I couldn’t say.

But you are here, and I could go on,

could tell you everything I’ve done,

but I think the words are finally coming up,

if you’ll excuse me.  I’m sorry, it’s never pretty;

I never was good with turbulence.

But it will be good to breathe again.

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