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Donna J. Gelagotis Lee

Lament for 20th-Century Air Travel

Pre-911, pre-SARS, the only worry:

the reliability of the machine itself—


those booths selling flight insurance

now relics of ignorance—


before we thought they’d bring our own planes down,

before unseen microbes would pass


out illness free as a beverage,

before in-flight dinner disappeared and


stewardesses served passengers

smiles and pleasantries,


when a 747, ponderous as a football

field, touched down with ornithologic grace,


when the stewardess’s life was "glamorous"!

(Hair, makeup, the romance


of flying. Cocktails. Cigarettes!

Re-lax. Sit back. Enjoy yourself!)


Cram! Ignore the air

hostess. Love, instructive


as a television, folds up.

A pack of peanuts on a tray. But you’re as big

as an elephant. The pilot gives you

altitude, temperature, a quick


greeting. Monitor

your surroundings. Vacation


is no longer vacating; the portable

life is here. You carry it with you—


all you need. You revolve

like the world—in degrees.

Donna J. Gelagotis Lee’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, CALYX: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, The Cortland Review, Crab Orchard Review, Feminist Studies, The Midwest Quarterly, and other journals.

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