Traveling with No Companion But the Person Next to Me


Traveling with No Companion But the Person Next to Me

There you are again, your sandwich sprawling red onions–
and I am starved (also a little
repulsed), knowing there will be nothing but “nut mix” mainly wheat mixed
with salt–and you will order water or cranberry juice
and I will feel unable next to you to order a red wine, though so low
even at cruising altitude, that I swore to try that for once, something, anything–
but the thing is
the coat from which you unpocketed your sandwich is nearly identical to an aunt’s
who could never let us spend money
in her presence, much less order wine–and why do you follow me
onto all planes, Aunt Ginny, and you,
Mom, packing the Depression even into my

Yes, I know you’d never eat so many
red onions and you’d never allow
all that mayo, still, there are the bunched sleeves, wrists,
foil unpeeling to crust–nothing I can

You watch your seatback, chewing, while I press everything
to turn off the men
on mine;  how they seem to chortle
above their self-satisfied stubble–but
nothing works–and what makes it worse
is that the only authenticity I can find in the nubbled plastic
at my fore, the scotch-guarded upholstery
at my aft,
even looking for the closest
exit, which just might be
behind, wafts
from those red onions–which are not mine, not mine–
draped in too much

The stewardess’s fringed lashes
warn me to be careful, now,
it’s hot–though the tea bag’s not even in the milky water yet, and
how will it ever brew like that–I hurry
to unwrap it– how will it ever
get strong?


I am a couple of steps behind the game, but here is a draftish poem for Heretomost’s  promptt on With Real Toads to write about a special person on a recurring journey to a special place.  My place is an airplane.  

Explore posts in the same categories: New York City, poetry, Uncategorized

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13 Comments on “Traveling with No Companion But the Person Next to Me”

  1. Helen Says:

    This is spot on! As a former frequent flyer I’ve seen, smelled, felt, heard it all. (you left out the gas that accompanies those red onions)

  2. janehewey Says:

    I am reveling in your sights and smells in this familiar place. It is Aunt Ginny following you onto all planes that lifts this above and beyond, because here you present another dimension entirely . This is wonderful writing with a fluidity to admire. The red onions and mayo… so drippy visceral. (this is my favorite way to wake up on a Sunday.) Starved and repulsed, a strong opening. The whole piece masterfully layered.

  3. hedgewitch Says:

    A very original(as always from you, k) look at a special person met traveling. I wonder if you have hit on one of the ways strangers become familiar-(assimilated)-our brain finds memories with which we can equate them. There’s really an insight here into how we perceive *everyone.* I really like some of the language, but I’m not going to pick it out, because I like even more how it functions as a whole–it has such a claustrophobic intensity, even in the pressing-down weight of unseparated lines crowding each other in the column. Really a great allegorical snapshot/mood piece, full of broody insight, human frailty, and the fragrance of the alien intrusion defended against with the shield of one’s own basic identity.

  4. What a way cool poem about traveling! Love all the onions and the worry about the tea – all so real and in the moment. Fantastic!

  5. ds Says:

    Marvelous! I can smell those red onions, practically taste that drippy mayo (tho’ I’m gagging on it). Amazing who surfaces on trips with us when we least expect them…totally absorbing and evocative, this. Thank you.

  6. brian miller Says:

    i used to travel all the time for work and have seen my share of the inside of airplane…and the lack of personal space…and can imagine how overpowering those onions would be in that little space…i found it very interesting your always seeing your aunt or one that reminds you of her on the flights and how her expectations translate forward….

  7. Oh my…I so relate to this…each flight seems to be a repeat of the last when riding that bus with wings

  8. grapeling Says:

    you turn this, so adroitly, with the single line, “aunt’s”. I can see – smell – this imagery, fraught with family memory intertwined with the exigencies of travel and forced neighbors. ~

  9. Herotomost Says:

    Fantastic insight into the feeling of flying and the personal/impersonal things that make us feel uncomfortable. This was a very creative take on this prompt and the narrative style really hit home with all the details and the flashbacks. I am super happy you came out and wrote this for the prompt, I enjoyed it immensely, a great piece of writing.

  10. A very, very original piece! 🙂

    Greetings from London.

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