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Air Empathy

By Jeffrey McDaniel

On the red-eye from Seattle, a two-year-old
in the seat behind me screeches

his miniature guts out. Instead of dreaming
of stuffing a wad of duct tape into his mouth,

I envy him, how he lets his pain spurt
into the open. I wish I could drill

a pipeline into the fields of ache, tap
a howl. How long would I need to sob

before the lady beside me dropped
her fashion rag, dipped a palm

into the puddle of me? How many
whimpers before another passenger

joined in? Soon the stewardess
hunched over the drink cart, the pilot

gushing into the controls, the entire plane:
an arrow of grief quivering through the sky.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  from "The Endarkenment" (University of Pittsburgh Press 2008). Used with permission.
Jeffrey McDaniel

Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Endarkenment (University of Pittsburgh Press). His work has appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1994, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He has won several awards, including an NEA Fellowship. He teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Jeffrey lived and wrote in Washington DC throughout the 1990s, working for DC WritersCorps and co-hosting a mainstage poetry series at the Black Cat called Blabbermouth Night. He studied at George Mason University, where he edited Phoebe and was active in Poetry Theater. He represented DC at the National Poetry Slam from 1993 to 1995.

Other poems by this author