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Jeff Burt

Your Flight Has Been Delayed

Your Flight Has Been Delayed

Even the sky made the impression of a spy
as the thunderstorm hammered us like nails into wood,
the creamy western troposphere appeared as linen suits on a hot day,

not crisp, sagging, as if the sky sat too long in the heat
and needed a straw hat perched high in the ozone,
parrot on its shoulder stolen from the Amazon,

pistol parked in the back of a sweat-soaked shirt,
notes on a nicotinic legal pad to be swallowed,
rigged by a rogue to distract us.

We walked through the airport with no clothes on
and yet they still waved the wand around our armpits
and crotch with a little tap on our thighs

and we laughed knowing we had ruined their joy
of exposure like a bomb that goes off
before detection. We widened our cavities

with proud Roman arches for hips
to make the searching more obvious
and saved the sado-enforcement joy for the next guy.

We used words like rubber bullets
so they could not tell if they were bleeding
until they recalled our conversation.

We suffered when they used interrogative pauses,
the ones that imply guilt while you wait,
a specialty of mothers who know why one child

is screaming and the other beating it for the back door,
or the teacher who could glare chalk from the blackboard
into snowflakes that fall and make a hand rise

like a zombie from the grave pleading for a lift
that you know you shouldn’t give but do.

But you are better at patience than the quizzer--
you’ve spent long days without swing sets and crayons
kept in on a beautiful April while your classmates played.

We rused as they perused,
a sly skill, a spy skill, to pull the wool over
and fleece at the same time, make like a sheep

but be wolfing a lamb, not the casual leafing
of a newspaper or book but the intense examination
of one thing while inspecting another,

the manner in which a father of a teenager appears
to be cleaning the inside windows of a car
while sniffing for alcohol on the seats.

We knew what it came down to at the end
was a code they were sent to assassinate,
a meaning they were sent to kill

to make everyone else feel vulnerable
to the claws of statistical deviation while they clutched
money and power, departures, arrivals,

a strange tattoo or facial tic revealed during killing delays
when escalators move one from A to A as novelty.
We knew what it came down to

was pretending that we had the strength to walk away
from what we never could earn or luck into,
truth and lie no longer opposite seats of a teeter totter

but the fulcrum, mixed to where we could not tell
the difference, and the squeak of the wood on metal
sounded like the cry of a braying ass.

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Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife and a July abundance of plums. He has work in Spry, The Monarch Review, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize.

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