Self-Portrait as a Pilot of the Free Will by Peter Leight

Lifting myself up
as if I’m casting off,
as long as I’m a pilot I’m keeping my eyes open, rolling my eyeballs across the sockets from side to side like ball bearings in order to look at everything at the same time:
leaning to one side then the other as if I’m looking around something
or looking past something,
is it too obvious?
Not leaving a note:  freedom is often the absence of anything specific.
Not even speeding up,
thinking about it as Lao Tse might have, not hurrying but everything is accomplished.
Not even pausing to admire the view.
As long as I’m a pilot I’m holding onto the handle, wrapping my hand around the handle, when
you’re a pilot your hand moves the handle, turning one way or the other, like a writing assignment when they don’t even give you a topic,
not following directions:   freedom isn’t following.
Personally I don’t have any momentum to speak of—
momentum is a form of auto-pilot.
Between my eyes there’s a ridge separating the sockets like a chisel with a soft lip, I’m keeping my eyes open,
as far as my vigilance is concerned I’m not even relaxing,
not even for a moment,
not sitting down and resting
or standing up and resting,
not even a little bit:  freedom isn’t just the ability.
Not thinking I need to,
or I could have,
not influenced by clientelism—
I don’t even understand the concept of cruise control, who’s actually in control?
Soaring over the wind or lifting up and flickering like a pilot light, not even slowing down when I’m not speeding up, as if the trip is a vehicle:
not tied down
or tied to anything,
that’s when you lose hope.

Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, FIELD, New World, Raritan, and other magazines.