Ode to an Aviatrix

Poetry / Bethany Carlson

for Katherine Sui Fun Cheung

Whole continents teem with your static
loveliness. Pieces of sky sugar down

in excelsis, touch airways you’ve hallowed
& conquered in wingspan, red-tipped dust.

As the cockpit sun skids down your arm,
dear aviatrix, we see the hollows of your face

framed in surfaces: island shallows   blue, isometric;
mountaintops shagged in ice.

And we know Ascension is this: the breaking

of day around us, pulsing the way a new heart
might pulse—or pivot on its transatlantic axis.

But things have a way of turning red
when you’d least expect: coordinates go

missing, a flare gun loses its savory, vines
trawl across terminals, make imposing demands.

At dusk, these runways unfurl their dark:

skein of veins, a map unspooling
at the base of your flawless skull.

Bethany Carlson is a graduate of Yale University (M.Div 2016) and Indiana University (MFA 2012) and a Kundiman fellow. Her chapbook, DIADEM ME, was published by MIEL Press in 2014. She coordinates an intercultural center and teaches in English departments near and far. She encourages you to eat more vegetables and get a road bike.