The Possible Company of My Death


At the gate, I sit in a row of blue seats
with the possible company of my death,
this sprawling miscellany of people-
carry-on bags and paperbacks

that could be gathered in a flash
into a band of pilgrims on the last open road.
Not that I think
if our plane crumpled into a mountain

we would all ascend together,
holding hands like a ring of skydivers,
into a sudden gasp of brightness,
or that there would be some common place

for us to reunite to jubilize the moment,
some spaceless, pillars Greece
where we could, at the count of three,
toss our ashes into the sunny air.

It’s just that the way that man has his briefcase
so carefully arranged,
the way that girl is cooling her tea,
and the flow of the comb that woman
passes through her daughter’s hair…
and when you consider the altitude,
the secret parts of the engines,
and all the hard water and the deep canyons below…

well, I just think it would be good if one of us
maybe stood up and said a few words,
or, so as not to involve the police,
at least quietly wrote something down.                        
                                                                                                —Billy Collins

This poem is why I love poetry so much. Because poetry, better than any other form of writing, succinctly expresses our common human emotions-often ones that are not spoken aloud. Who has not had these thoughts prior to a flight while waiting in the boarding area? Or even during a flight?  The author brilliantly concludes with humor. He leaves us all clearly imagining the scenario of someone publicly expressing the universal fear- and the inevitable result!