Rules for Another…

Rules for Another Plane

He sits beside me, too close,
the cramped quarters of the flight
leave insufficient room for elbows
politely sharing space,
for thighs not quite touching.
A young man, I think, though its hard
to assess without staring.
We have both engaged
in airplane courtesy: quick smiles
and then gaze down-shifted to book
and magazine; in this too-small
space, we can offer each other
little more than the ignoring
that passes for privacy. Its polite,
and yet, not what I want tonight.

If we were wild animals,
we would share space differently;
we would curl up together,
this young man and I, my arm
sliding beneath his, my hand
resting on his thigh,
as the plane coasts eastward
into the night; we would take
comfort in the beat of shared
pulses. If he were she, I think
we might come closer to that,
be less self-conscious,
less punctilious in our space

I once fell asleep at five a.m.,
exhausted, commuting
to work on a city bus, my head
falling onto the shoulder
of an older black woman
in the back row. She let me sleep,
kindness triumphing over
ordinary rules of courtesy;
perhaps hers was the greater
civilization, one we rarely allow.

I wish this young man and I
might forget all the rules
that say we should not touch,
that it would be, in another context,
dangerous to allow such
familiarity. He looks tired,
and I would gladly let him lean
against me, two warm bodies
in this liminal space between worlds,
in the chill of sundered night.


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