PoetryIssue 19 | December 2013


by Alexander Motyl

I smelled a rat
as soon as
der Kapitän said that
vee’d stay in Boryspil
for four hours at least.
The passengers groaned,
unclicked their seat belts,
and sank back in defeat,
as if the very air
were heavy with
(what else?)
a peculiar mixture
of German-Ukrainian despair.
Things looked grim
(the word schwarz came to mind),
but the time for heroism
had not or,
more accurately,
had not just yet arrived.
Wait and see was the thing to do,
and, indeed, a minute later
he said it was two,
and in another five
(mirabile dictu!)
just one hour of captivity
was left to endure.
In all honesty,
I smelled a rat again,
and just as the poor saps began
nodding knowledgeably,
and patting one another
on the head and back,
he suddenly said he had
eine sehr schlechte Nachricht.
Something was clearly afoot
and I smelled another rat.
Frankfurt was closed
(ganz geschlossen were his words)
and we’d be trapped in Kyiv
or did he say Kursk?
for seven hours or more.
Enough is enough, I cursed,
knowing that the Terminator
gets going
when the going
gets tough.
So I took fate by the horns,
figuratively, that is,
and in Austrian,
of course,
and said hasta la vista to Lufthansa
and servus, baby to Aerosvit.
The rest was routine.
Can you blame the kapitän
for trembling
while speaking Ukrainian?
All in all,
he flew reasonably well,
managing to stay on course.
And since I made sure
there was no room for error,
the flight to New York
was a total bore.

About the author

Alexander J. Motyl is a writer, painter, and professor. His poems have appeared at The Battered Suitcase, Counterexample PoeticsMayday, and New York Quarterly. He is the author of four novels, and his artwork has been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto. He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York. Visit his website.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok