We were en route from Minneapolis to Orlando,
nine weeks post 9/11, a couple of coworkers
on a half-empty airplane.
Loosened up by an airport cocktail or two
I asked many questions which you patiently answered though
I sounded impertinent, I’m sure.
Perhaps you understood in my earnest uncertainty,
a secret desire for faith
that even the most impassioned non-believer keeps alive.
You told me you first felt the hand of God when you’d
been adrift, a seventeen-year-old river-brat,
the son of a town official who’d caused a scandal
and disgraced the family.
I asked what that hand of God felt like?
when Jesus first touched you
was it like being lifted in flight?
And how was it, years later,
you pushed that hand away,
rejecting everything you’d believed
for so long.
Somewhere around the time
you divorced an unfaithful wife,
you divorced God, too.
She remained a believer while
you fell away,
not like Adam falling out of paradise
after trying to cover up his wife’s sin,
but like Dædalus trying to catch his only son,
the boy he’d equipped with wings held together by wax,
You plummeted after your liquefying faith
as your once feathered hopes drifted away.
Somewhere over Kentucky
turbulence struck and my eyes widened.
“I don’t like turbulence,” I told you.
You eyed me with amused conviction,
and began to bounce in motion with the plane.
“See,” you said.
“Turbulence is fun.”
You seemed so convinced it was true
that I bounced, too.
I felt the fear loosen
and had a moment when I thought I understood.
Perhaps faith is built on faith:
on an earnest belief that says it’s best just to smile
and help others through the chaos.
We started our descent into Orlando
and looked down to see
the glittering lights of a half-deserted Disneyworld.
The tourists, still shaken from 9/11,
had not returned in force.
No one was ready to believe again in America.