The Prophet in Flight

posted Aug 5, 2008

Tonight on an eastward red-eye flight across
the country, the Prophet witnesses through his porthole:
first the sundown’s crimson dousing desert mesas,
then the dark sea pooling in canyons, night’s flood

spilling into heartland farms where streetlights
shimmer few and far between. Through shredded sails
of cirrus a blood red moon rises on the horizon,
as, coming into view one bright city after another—

Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit—their spilled
electric treasures glinting, shine upward as the plane
rides jet stream currents down. Delighted as a diver
discovering scattered gems, the Prophet stares,

amazed by tentacles of freeway light stretching for miles,
giant pulsing nets spread to defy the gulfs of darkness
between them and sees this vision: that with this
towering energy his people have erected great

blockades of light, that working together they’ve
transformed the tides to keep the night forever
at bay. Buoyant and elated, the Prophet knows
he must address his people. Standing, he smoothes

his black suit, moves into the aisle, and speaks:
My fellow passengers, beneath our silver wings now,
see how a great force carries forth in all directions…
Looking past him at the flickering movie screen,

rows of half-lit faces remain immersed in the in-flight
comedy, headsets on. Others doze open-mouthed,
some don’t lift their eyes from crosswords or copies
of the complimentary Sky Shopper magazine. To capture

their attention, the Prophet turns his voice up a notch:
Those of you on the south side of the plane will now see
Detroit shining and see in its rising light a sign…
when something in him sinks, losing sight

of that city’s lights outside the plane. Tossed with
sudden inner turbulence, he leans to look out
the emergency exit window toward the apparently
missing city, wobbling as the seatbelt sign flashes on

and the pilot soothes them, his voice humming like a father’s
while blessing his infant good night: we’re now beginning
our descent. Following orders, the Prophet takes
his seat, and places the metal clasp securely in its buckle.