An Airfield Amelia Earhart Used to Know By Loretta Long

An Airfield Amelia Earhart Used to Know

It’s not every day you meet a moody curator sitting on a paint can
feeding chickens, a locked up airplane museum a few feet away.
On bad days, from his kitchen window,
he’ll throw you the keys.

When he’s able to, his petal-skinned hands
point toward cases welded from rail cars,
Inside hang spring pole stirrups,
stretched and torn
by drillers’ arches,
hop-pumping oil
for WWI reconnaissance.
He describes that wildcatter’s oil boom,
men worrying more about their horses’ looks
than themselves.

These days, everyone knows oilmen doubt
they cause stronger hurricanes.
Plenty have lost it all more than once in a storm.
Now, along the town’s empty streets, gardeners
decorate with bull wheels, with drilling jars.

From tailgates, farmers make deals
with oil black clouds miles away.
Tractor-high piles of mesquite trees wait for burning,
after drinking twenty times their share of water
on drought-stricken farm land.

The second interstate highway parallels
train tracks nearby. The Bankhead Highway.
Original cracked bricks bulge against Stork’s Bill,
Lazy Susan, Queen Anne’s Lace,
and sprouting Chinaberry trees.

Row after row of empty pews fill churches
where artists and photographers build studios
in bell towers.
Or old gas stations.
Scissortail Flycatchers’ sunset-colored bellies
shiver in the late spring frost, before lifting
from trembling stalks of dried grass.

At the grassy field called the airport,
the one Amelia Earhart used to know,
the curator spends hours
pulling rocks away from
newly planted grass seed, day after day,
although he never achieved his pilot’s license.
A sick mother and falling in love
got in the way.

Tacked to the airport wall is an aviation map.
His son crafted careful circles, perfectly neat lines,
marking like streams of sunlight
every route they’d take, if they could.
Their airport isn’t on the map,
so the son drew it in, unsure exactly
where to put it.

In the airfield after dark,
the curator teaches everyone he meets to trace Orion.
A little easier in a town with mostly burnt out streetlights.

By Loretta Long

Biography:

I’ve worked as a plant potter in a greenhouse, waitress, carpenter’s apprentice, car detailer, caregiver, and massage therapist. In 2010, I received my MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Now I live in San Antonio, Texas where I work as a massage therapist and adjunct English Instructor.

My work has been published in online and print journals including Triggerfish Critical Review, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Pemmican, Dublin Quarterly, The Salal Review, All Things Girl, and The Daily News.

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