You are here

On a Plane Flying Down the Coast of Florida

Elise Paschen

Lately, it's been dreams of precipices:

Strange aerial ones where I, the dreamer, always 

Aloft or on some verge am looking

Down from steep heights on to shocks

Of mountains whited out by snow. Perhaps


It's only habit, as you say, or need,

Remembering the mountains this time of year 

That comes out, again, like another prayer.


In this plane now heading south I write you 

Over flat land called Florida and below 

Speckled like shells along the Gulf Coast 

Are tiny islands which vanish depending 

On the tides. The largest of these, Captiva,


A bird sanctuary, never disappears.

As children, we found shells along its sand:

Fans, Lemon Pectons, Lion's Paws (the rarest of all).


In this seat looking down I imagine you

As a boy in the story you once told.

You scaled up hillside to master the view; 

Losing foot-hold you slipped, clutching bracken, 

Handfuls of turf as you fell towards the sea.


Last night's dream on the sudden returns 

Like a missive sent back by some dismissed 

Lover: we, upwards on cliff, expecting


A monument or temple found instead

Plateau, quite narrow. I edged behind you 

Grabbing on your hand, your words, refusing 

To look down; I regretted the return:

Fearing it like this height or death


By seaplane. We are landing now; lights on 

In the street below. And in the pond, maybe, 

Alligators. The tiny trees reflect like mirages 

As the plane sinks down, nosing the runway, 

Returned to this Indian land; flat, unwanted.


From The Poetry Review January 1984.

This poem was later published in Elise Pachen's Infidelities (Story Line Press, 1996).

Explore more