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Of the angels I slaughtered to get here
I miss cigarettes the most.

I stand at the window looking over the valley
at the municipal airport where the radar dish

turns in red circles as smooth as the air a splinter frees
from a plank of wood or a pane of glass or

some tender punctured flesh.
This is a metaphor of course

for addiction, and in it I am both
the body that holsters the splinter

and the splinter drawn
like a confession from a prisoner.

I am the air that replaces the splinter
as well as the ragged space the air

now occupies, not to mention the false
relief that surges in.

As a quitter I am free
to be many things,

like the airplane taxiing to the head of the runway,
its triangular landing gear

and the space between the tarmac and the gear
that grows wider,

more ambitious, filling itself with
miniature soybean fields and the sporadic shock of birds.

I can be the tarmac under the airplane that
as the plane rises shrinks to fit more snugly

around its slow tectonic moods,
which right now is happy

that the Cessna is taking
responsibility for its weight,

but sad too, because it will miss
those odd shudders the pilot emits

as he names in his preflight checklist
all the things that might fail him.



Conor Bracken is the author of The Enemy of My Enemy Is Me (Diode), as well as the translator of Jean D’Amérique’s No Way in the Skin Without This Bloody Embrace (Ugly Duckling), a finalist for the 2023 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art.




Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

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