Autumn's vivid colors are lost in its long nights. Fireplace smoke scents the chilled night air, and the falling leaves continue to rustle even when there is no breeze. The canopy is opening for the swelling moon. The chirping insects have all gone, and silence frames a distant dog's bark. It's as though a stone fell into a pool and left no ripples. But this night my thoughts are the ripples. Years lap unseen shores, and I float, gazing skyward as stars emerge.
by Marge Piercy
Vol de nuit: It's that French
phrase comes to me out of a dead
era, a closet where the bones of pets
and dried jellyfish are stored. Dreams
of a twenty-year-old are salty water
and the residual stickiness of berry jam
but they have the power to paralyze
a swimmer out beyond her depth and strength.
Memory's a minefield.
Saint-Exupéry was a favorite of my French
former husband. Every love has its
season, its cultural artifacts, shreds
of popular song like a billboard
peeling in strips to the faces behind,
endearments and scents, patchouli,
musk, cabbage, vanilla, male cat, smoked
herring. Yet I call this cobalt and crystal
outing, vol de nuit.
Alone in a row on the half empty late
plane I sit by the window holding myself.
As the engines roar and the plane quivers
and then bursts forward I am tensed
and tuned for the high arc of flight
between snowfields, frozen lakes and the cold
distant fires of the clustered stars. Below
the lights of cities burn like fallen galaxies,
ordered, radial, pulsing.
Sometimes hurtling down a highway through
the narrow cone of headlights I feel
moments of exaltation, but my night
vision is poor. I pretend at control
as I drive, nervously edging that knowledge
I am not really managing. I am in the hands
of strangers and of luck. By flight he meant
flying and I mean being flown, totally
beyond volition, willfully.
We fall in love with strangers whose faces
radiate a familiar power that reminds us
of something lost before we had it.
The braille of the studious fingers instructs
exactly what we have succumbed to, far too late
to close, to retract the self that has extruded
from us naked, vulnerable and sticky,
the foot, the tentative eyestalked head
of the mating snail.
To fall in love so late is dangerous. Below,
lights are winking out. Cars crawl into driveways
and fade into the snow. Planes make me think
of dying suddenly, and loving of dying
slowly, the heat loss of failure and betrayed
trust. Yet I cast myself on you, closing
my eyes as I leap and then opening them wide
as I land. Love is plunging into darkness toward
a place that may exist.