They say when you come to the end of your life
your memory reaches back to those practices
and traditions you learned in childhood.
I do not know if this is true. There were only three of us
aboard. The pilot…a woman flying the double prop Caravan, a bush plane.
Behind my seat: a case of fuel oil, bales of straw
for sled dog teams, Pampers for the village babies,
Squeezed in next to me: a Native man wearing a cowboy hat
his hatband a string of ivory beads
carved into the head of a raven or bear.
I twiddle a pen between my fingers
watch the land and sea-caps drop away.
Did I remember to bring my bathing suit, so I can
take a steam at night with the women?
they are modest in New Stuyhawk, though
I don’t mind being naked.
Slow roll, pitch and dive.
I grip my pen, swallow
hard, hard into the belly.
A big hand is pushing
down on us
we can’t climb, can’t
find calm air
Long slow breathing helps, with the terror.
I am not a religious person, but
it is time to pray now, the air is angry.
I open my book. look.
An orchid is pressed there
I lean down and smell it
one last time.