It was a few years back when this happened,
when a friend shared a photo of his daughter
in the pilot’s seat of a small plane. She looked
grown and child-like at the same time, sweet,
awkward, smiling, crowded in this teeny-tiny
plane. And we ooh’d and ahh’d and laughed.
Later, though, my feet felt the pedals below
them, steering that plane, steering one like it,
and a man sitting beside me (there was no
man sitting beside me) smiled and said, “Yup,
that’s right, you’re doing it now. I’m not helping
at all.” Then he wasn’t smiling, looked real
serious instead and said, “I’m taking over now.”
That’s it. Maybe a memory, maybe a dream.
But I’ve never flown a plane before; it can’t be
the first. I wasn’t asleep; it can’t be the second.
My feet, though, my feet could feel those
pedals, feel the plane bank gently left now
gently right “Just like that, that’s right” and
who is this man beside me? (There is no man
beside me.) How is it possible for me to know
these pedals are a rudder steering this plane?
So, see, this is a story that’s hard to tell: I might
have flown a plane, I might have died trying.
I’ve come to know since another way or two
I maybe might have died: none good. So I think
of the time or two I tried to die and failed. That I
told the doctors meant god looked at me like
a too-small fish he had to throw back. Maybe
it’s not just this life where I needed not to die
too soon. Maybe I died too soon once or twice
before. Maybe this time somebody somewhere
is saying goddammit, she needs to see things
through! Maybe it’s me saying that. Or the kid
flying that plane. Or the guy who couldn’t land it.
Anyway. This was all a few years back. I’m not
getting any younger, and it’s common enough for
little local airports to offer free flying lessons on
Saturday afternoon—the one near me has a
banner up now. It just seems like something
you’d remember, flying a plane. Like something
more than one part of your body could recall.
Paula J. Lambert is a literary and visual artist from Columbus, Ohio, widely recognized for her creative work. Author of several collections of poetry, she has received two grants from the Ohio Arts Council, including a 2020 Individual Excellence Award for poetry. She has received two Greater Columbus Arts Council AITC Grants and has twice been resident of the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Lambert owns Full/Crescent Press, a small publisher of poetry books and broadsides, through which she has founded numerous public readings supporting the intersection of poetry and science, including the Sun & Moon Poetry Festival. Learn more at http://www.paulajlambert.com.