Broken Clouds, Moline Airport by Ted Lardner

A technical term, the aviator’s term, for what the sky holds,
it could, today, be a translation, a name for
searching, for finding out how
a girl I knew my whole life
could die at fifty from drinking.
There had to have been other endings
the last, when it came, translated
in one long gasping slide.

                    In high school, man,
she could swim. So strong. She must have been
year in, year out, pulling through those dives and turns
some kind of weight, a tear, or a fright,
hard as a fish, caught, pulling through rough water.
In the departure gate in the pre-board,
for a second I think I hear her;
she’s the woman on a cell phone,
saying to someone, something about Grandpaw.
For a second, instead of about Sarah,
I wonder, who says “Grandpaw” anymore?
Then, crossing the threshold to board the plane,
I understand how long I’ve been gone.

There’s a radar tower on Indian Bluff.
Over the treetops, noon and night,
the basket revolves, catching
signals from over the horizon,
that echo down through the broken Moline clouds,
sunbeams shafting among them
as we climb, leveling out
over ground haze, Illinois fields
scaling the Mississippi,
a slip of a slender arm of the river
deep in dusky shimmering
in its swim beyond us all.
Ted Lardner‘s writing has appeared in Poet Lore, 5am, Arsenic Lobster and The Normal School. He is an alum of the Colrain manuscript conference, and his chapbook, Tornado, was published by Kent State University Press.