From its dark winters, this is Alaska —
terrain unknown and treacherous, white
blinding with snow, and sky black and filled
with these contraptions —
or so they say. These men and women who
burst at the seams with story. Far below zero,
days at a time, I wait. I watch. The lights
reported here, could they
possibly be natures wrath? That volcano
we all remember, or maybe Aurora sparkling
on the horizon. But pilots, to and fro from Juneau
widen their eyes in fear
to tell me: this is where I saw it. This is where
I knew — I knew it was real. In the lower 48
flying is different. Intimately, as a pilot myself
I am so aware
of the way we hug the sky with our wings and
engines. A slip proves fatal in these mountains.
Twelve a year die in avalanches here. Those lights,
that glitter, the unidentified —
we risk breath to learn, to certify
what only the Universe can fathom.
This is where Columbus saw the light
floating in the distance,
a lantern, faint.
Anchored here, I know Earth will forget me,
despite heavy maritime traffic
in the area. Fear is a myth
in these parts, a concept that
has no bearings on the reality of late summer storms.
The whistle of the ocean
ebbs into my ears, a requiem
for the sinking. But I’ll be saved, as promised
by the mysteries that preceded me,
the boats and planes that disappear here,
skeptics claim as hoaxes.
But I see the dance, the lights that
sparkle on the horizon, where no land waits
to hold the flame.
Here is where I’ll greet
our makers, a dot on a satellite
you’ll never locate,
my breath the same as the salt
stuck in this air forever.