Here is my baggage, passport and boarding pass.
And yes, I’m fit to travel, sit in the plane’s
emergency exit row. Almost nothing is left
to chance: at each checkpoint, I am scanned, touched
by frisky hands. As always, waiting time is long,
from check-in to boarding, take off to landing.
Marooned, I’m prone to dreams of distant lands,
the mind traversing cliffs and oceans to pass
the time, slow like a drip of honey. How I long
for the gritty feel of sand against soles, not a plain
woven carpet, the concrete floor given a touch
of patchwork. But what else is there to do? Left
to my own devices, I scroll through those who’ve left
for good, the ones who called it quits with Motherland,
their feet stomping for that dramatic touch.
Are you leaving, they ask. I answer that I’m just passing
through, seesawing between here and there, the plane
an aerial fulcrum. What comes along
with moving all the time is it’s never long
enough to put down roots. I make do with where I left
off, checking messages unread, finding planes
of symmetry in the back and forth of words, stray landings
of emoticons in my inbox. Should I pass
or click reply? I’ve lost count of people I’ve lost touch
with, the threads of conversation that used to touch
beyond the surface, now static and forgotten long
after the promise to keep on reaching out. Passerby,
nomad, vagabond who keeps on drifting left
and right: all of these, my names, in every land
I set foot in. Arrivals stream from a plane
while I stand by for the boarding call, the plaintive
voice announcing it is time, it is time. The touch
down looms far ahead. Somewhere, in a land
where storms blow roofs away, mother sleeps. It has been long
since I last saw her. All her sons have left,
her garden turning wild and choked with weeds. Years pass.
And you, whose plane is about to fly, how long
have you waited to touch the face of someone you left?
Let the heart’s arrow land on target. Let the sting pass.
Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. is the author of Aria and Trumpet Flourish (Math Paper Press, Singapore), as well as the chapbooks Requiem and Hymnal (Vagabond Press, Australia). His poems have been published in Likhaan, Kritika Kultura, Banwa, and other journals and anthologies. He has received prizes from the Palanca Awards, Kokoy Guevara Poetry Competition, British Council, among others. He has been based in Singapore since 2011.