I try to sleep over Saskatchewan
in economy-classic style
one of the sardine-variety commuters
canned on an Airbus 320
enroute to adopted, inland shores.
Adjusting the flat, foam pillow
I lay claim to some small piece of the fuselage
next to the window — seat 7A —
using the limited leg room
my experience allows.
The man in the middle seat
beside me, adjoining me
lingers with a book
too heavy for light reading.
He sits entranced, decoding the
heirloom tome —
a dirge to neglected Christian icons—
its faux calfskin cover appears
under the scant cabin lights.
He finds the chapter that
speaks of a disciple: Francis du Laissez-Passer,
a lesser known monk
from an abandoned century and catechism.
Forgotten Francis summoned feral pigeons
at a time of pox and famine —
now and forever inscribed as
the “Patron Saint of Roast Squab”.
His grave tended by dulcet sheep.
Past my porthole reflection
the lights of Regina flicker underfoot
like lazy fireflies.
He chews on the
complimentary pretzels, slowly ingesting
page after ecclesiastic page —
each folio an illumination.
He deliberates, masticates,
over the virtuous nature
venerate kinsmen from chivalrous sagas —
archived clerics who forged a dense,
few masculine martyrs can follow.
The pretzels cling to his teeth like plaque.
Someone in the back rows
snores in staccato
lyrical, salivated breath,
while an agile flight attendant
skirts along the aisle to rescue a
child neglected and locked
in the washroom; a restless overseer
for each passenger’s discarded remnants.
He pretends to stare outside
beyond the outstretched wing
and striated skies, instead, scans
my profile and pout.
I swallow hard
forcing my ears to pop.
He flips anxiously to page 344
a lithograph of Abraham’s breast;
the saint’s eyes uplifted, marbled hands
pulling away skin and flesh
to reveal a pastoral heart pierced with arrows.
We ascend to 38,000 feet over Yorkton.
I stare blankly at the clip art plane
as it twitches and levitates
across pixelated borders through
an inky, cloudless sky.
My eyelids grow heavy; I begin to drift away
to a quieter heaven.
He focuses on the first-class
curtain, tries to control
simple leftovers from benediction-style devotion.
While I dream of cooking fiddleheads
for Joe Strummer,
the cabin pressure dips. The plane
spirals gently into descent
wheels skip across the beaten tarmac
like children in an unfamiliar playground.
Every soul is safely stowed away
in the recline position as
whispered prayers float past the ‘No Smoking’ signs.
A chirpy co-pilot delivers weather reports
and sanitized jokes over the intercom —
the one about the gardener
and the psychic — to wipe away ancient fears.
When the cabin door swings open,
he tucks the revered folios
tenderly away in his backpack,
then stands, dissolves,
shrouded behind the pedestrian masses
scavenging through overhead compartments —
a hasty, pious retreat.
I yawn and stretch,
and when I rise,
an old man blocks the aisle,
offering me an early exit.
We smile and politely slip away.
Yvonne Stiver-Macleod is a writer, currently living in Muskoka, Ontario,
Canada. She has lived in Spain, Scotland, New Zealand and the USA. A
graduate of English from the University of Waterloo, her work has appeared
in a variety of publications including Descant, Northwords and New Writer.