[Alumni News and Notes]

On the Runway

By Grover Amen '54


I knew an airport security guard who let
me through Gate 47, with eastbound passengers
crossing the Altantic, out to the landing field

where at the edge of the runway, beyond
the blinking lights, the blue warning
zone, lying in a goldenrod waste of

cement and cracked tar, I waved the night
jets in, quiet in my power, guiding them
down, as they bellied across the bay and

burst with a braking roar, so close
I could feel the engine dust, the
warm asphalt wind in my ears and eyes,

over and over. Every forty-five seconds
gauging their nightweight and speed, I
welcomed the tons of arrival, I the secret

air traffic controller, roused from my
Brooklyn bed to celebrate the might of
souls in commerce, converging, delivered

to my sunken patch of welcome, an almost
underground cell charged with secret
connections to water and darkness. With each

flight down, I could have gladly gone
under for good, etched in granite and
rock, a grateful fossil, a shining

tattoo, last specimen of a species pounded
to sleep in a bedrock of print. As I tried
for some wound long inside to be touched,

if not healed, I craved the jet speed, with
each surge as it came, to become the
pain and then free. But it was hard

to keep faith when the first high failed and
left me crazed and unsure, like a derelict monk
craving the power to bless. Yet it wasn't crazed

to add a slight push or prayer to powers
already there, after prying so long against
them, and it was a wider space to keep watch

than my moonprint pillow. So even if there was,
in my runway vigil, more drama than grace, I stayed
until the first gray, when I left by the gate

I'd come, like a straggler just landed, a late
passenger, grateful to step from a long flight
down onto another quick morning on earth.

Editor's note: This poem appeared in the "Losses in the Oberlin Family" section of an earlier issue of OAM with some unfortunate errors in reproduction. "On the Runway" is reprinted here in its entirety. Mr. Amen's poems first appeared in The New Yorker, where he was Talk of the Town reporter in the 1960s.