–for Eero Saarieen and my grandfather
I sit inside the imagination
of the world. Outside flights aviate
over me, headed toward fantasy.
The Grand Central of the jet age, carpets
Rolled out red, arriving and departing,
for the future to the future. Freshest,
favorite place on this earth to leave earth
awhile. I wander, holding his hand
through tube shaped corridors of this octopus
of concrete. Skylights stretch effortless, smooth
across some seams separating the shells.
A monument of magnificence, how
was I to know everything after would
pale. On Sundays my grandfather brings me
here, he still calls it Idlewild. He loves
Eero Saarieen more than his son, who
flies away from us again, as we stand
under the concrete shell of it, then head
toward the Union News Restaurant. I peer,
nose on plate glass of expressionsim,
sad for Saarieen, dead now. It is hard
to be the great creator of anything.
I eat my grapefruit with a serrated spoon,
Marischino cherry in the middle.
In the church of TWA we are
closer to the sky, where I guess God is
because my parents seek his love so much
while my grandfather and I watch the jets
carry their congregations away from
this encircling terminal, hyper-
efficent. He takes out his handkerchief,
wipes my face so the day can start anew.
Now, in the resurrected terminal
turned hotel, performing 1970,
the beautiful, fragile loneliness of
the future has still not arrived. The future
is the pain and desire and dreaming
of the past. I am revisiting the tortoise
shell of this building its jet-echo hope
for the future. For now God’s a pilot,
all passengers see heaven, my cheek still
against the window. The world outside smells
of jetfuel. I was in love with how it
felt to be in its largess of possibility–
and made me believe: I am as space age
as this lasting truth. I’m made of delight,
and its large futurism. The curving
stairways like a modern dancer across
a stage, revelatory and in flight,
a Constellation L-1649
Starliner made by Lockheed. Yet,
to express structure is not an end
in itself. To grow organically from
a site in juxtaposition, I grow with 737s
for siblings. Once, grown ups thought anything
was possible, in a good, productive,
modern way, where chairs that are tulips
are also high art. A revelation
of form and content, of how we inhabit
our metaphors for leaving and coming
home. To say this is a cathedral is
wrong: some souls will not return. For them
it’s the transience that’s holy. Now the
future is vintage. We quest for the question
Howard Hughes lost when he lost the terminal.
Someone dressed in an antique TWA
uniform as if fresh out of the past,
anew, offers me a drink, I choke it down.
Elizabeth A.I. Powell was born in New York City. She earned her BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the poetry collections The Republic of Self (2001), which won a New Issues Poetry Prize, and Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter or Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances (2016), winner of an Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize for Poetry and a “Books We Love 2016” pick by the New Yorker.
Powell is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a grant from the Vermont Arts Council, and a fellowship from Yaddo. An editor of Green Mountains Review, she is associate professor of writing and literature at Northern Vermont University and on the faculty of the low-residency MFA programs at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts.