Home Thoughts from Aboard Continental Flight 94


by Daniel Bosch

In memory of Joseph Brodsky


Horizontal Babel,
Your high-pitched hex
Hums in the grunting thrust
Of this plane leaving LAX.

Over the palm-lined, blue Pacific
Cruise ships proud as banks
Wink as I look down
On the land of the swank.

Oh, to be over America!
Where flight attendants’ prose
Lulls the savage child
In each of thirty rows,

And I scan, in trimeter,
Dying for a hit,
The outlines of ghost cigarettes
They leave so brightly lit. 


Mesas tabled when
Seas last litigated
Silently testify
On behalf of Time Incorporated.

The canyon’s grand scansion
Is so irregular
The river must not know
The future of free verse—

Yet still its silt slowly
Reveals the past,
And layer by layer
Measures what lasts. 


A checkerboard of farms
Gives way to greeny disks
Less perfect for bright barns’
Sudden radar blips

And skinny tangent highways
That bisect golden sheaves
Count the country’s blessings
In lucky cloverleaves.


On midwest Sunday nights
The bare, bold parking lots
Of empty shopping malls
Wear only leopard spots.

So it seems the tiger
Has changed its stripes—
Or commerce here prefers
To choose its own disguise.


Manhattan gridlock’s
Red and white glazes
Straighten incisors
Like a set of braces.

A smile I recognize—
Black bottom teeth, caries
Backlit by cavities
Full of actuaries—

But our nose wheel’s skid
On Newark’s hard tarmac
Brings me “down” again
With the Trade-Centered Karnak

That sparkles and shimmers
Like a wet, half-full cup
Of words I should know
But still have to look up.

Russian-born poet Joseph Brodsky died twenty years ago this January.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991.

“Home Thoughts from Aboard Continental Flight 94” was first published in Partisan Review (Spring 1997)

About the Author:


In 1998, Daniel Bosch was awarded the first Boston Review Poetry Prize for four poems riffing on films starring Tom Hanks. His work has been published in journals such as Poetry, Slate, The TLS, Agni, Berfrois, The New Republic, The Huffington Post, The Fortnightly Review, andThe Paris Review, and a collection of his poems, Crucible, was published by Other Press in 2002. His set of triolets called Octaves is downloadable for free at Daniel has taught writing at Boston University, Harvard University, Tufts University, Merrimack College, Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Emory University.