Two Poems by Patricia Behrens

Leveling Off

Across a restaurant table, I casually suggested
we could meet up in Hawaii, as if traveling
six thousand miles after years of separation
might be ordinary.

Once he’d made the long, impetuous trip,
once we were there, evening air billowing my skirt
over the Pacific, surf sweeping like brushes over drums,
I knew we’d marry.

Now six years later, we’re flying back.
There’s nothing smooth about the takeoff.
We hear grating like car gears stripping
as the flaps retract.

A buzz above the engine sounds doesn’t go away
with altitude. At ninety minutes the announcement
comes: the plane’s diverting to Chicago.
(It’s losing its hydraulics.)

Coming in we see the nighttime runway lined
with fire engines, water trucks, bright temporary
lights illuminating everything. Together, we focus
only on the details —

where we’ll stay if there’s an overnight delay,
how to find the luggage, what time we might get in.
We no longer think of drinks with orchids
in the glasses, island heat, the scent of frangipani.

Recapitulation at Jazz Fest

Your heart beating to
its post-surgical rhythm
in post-Katrina

New Orleans, we start
exploring together our
syncopated pasts —

the city we each
loved separately before
we loved each other.

We replay our lives
for each other through places:
you buy me breakfast

at Brennans; I buy you
beignets at Café du Monde.
Together we walk

the old French Quarter
hoping not to see signs of
the hurricane’s toll.

And then we part
to travel different routes
to San Francisco

you by air with friends
hoping memory helps you
reclaim who you were

me by train alone
hoping its quiet helps me
claim who I’ve become.

About the author

Patricia Behrens was born in Massachusetts, fell in love with New York City during college and has lived in Manhattan ever since, although she…

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Issue 24 · Autumn 2021

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