The world would be a less interesting place without the occasional coincidence.
Today I went to an art show. There were hundreds of artists there and I was quite taken with some of their work. One piece in particular drew me in. It is called The World As An Object For Aesthetic Contemplation by Martin Budny, a flight attendant, artist and actor.
The coincidence? Well, when I returned home to write the introduction to today’s poem I realized that it was by a flight attendant. Our poet this Sunday, Lori Jakiela, worked for Delta Air Lines for six years. She now teaches in the writing programs at The University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg and Chatham University.
I am poorly equipped to define art but it seems to me that flight attendants are well positioned to be the makers of it. Traveling on a regular basis, they have a chance to see the world. Serving hundreds of people every day from different cultures, different economic classes, genders, age and every other attribute that contributes to making individuals unique, they are positioned to observe and appreciate the human condition. The flight attendant so inclined, has all the subject matter they need for art.
Today’s poem is about unadulterated joy. Using her experience as a flight attendant, Jakiela focuses us on how we often miss the joy that life has to offer. I wish we could all be as happy as the lady in 38C.
The Lady in 38 C
gets confused. She thinks I’m her nurse.
“Nurse!” she yells. “My finger!”
So I bring her a band-aid
and put it on even though she’s fine.
“Oh thank you nurse!” she yells.
“You’re a good one.”
She winks and smiles and the woman next to her
glares into her computer.
I think the old lady’s charming.
She’s 86, still pretty. Her eyes are blue.
Her hair is a cloud.
She looks exactly like what’s outside.
She’s the only air in this cabin, the only light.
“Nurse!” she yells, and I look back
over the sad heads, eggs in a carton,
faces pressed against
the mite-ridden blankets
and pillows they fought for,
and there she is, beaming.
“Nurse,” she says. “Where are we?”
I take her hand
and look out the window.
I scratch my head, smile
and say, “Somewhere
She’s the only passenger
who’s ever gotten that joke.
Up here, nearly everyone is miserable.
I count on small joys to get by.
The woman in 38C says, “Oh, Nurse!”
and the woman next to her
who probably thinks we’re somewhere
over Idaho, that wonderland of Hemingway
and golden potatoes,
rolls her eyes and bangs the computer keys
until the seatbelt sign goes on
and the captain says,
“We’ll be experiencing weather.”
which is what people say
instead of scary things like storm and turbulence
and pretty soon the plane is bouncing
and the woman with the computer
grips her armrest
while the old lady throws her arms up
like she’s on a roller coaster and yells,
“They should charge extra for this!”