The National Poetry Review

Jed Myers

MEDITATION INSPIRED BY JAMES BALDWIN WHILE WAITING TO BOARD DELTA FLIGHT 1960

The stranger who flies in on a forged passport
might in some future moment riddle
my skin with the lead of his hate. Let there be
no argument. He might cross a border
river, crawl through a tunnel at night,
or drive across Broad Street the mile between
the house he grew up in and my shopping mall.
He might line up with me in the morning
to board the same bus for work. It is he
who also waits at Gate C-18
for my flight to LA. What does the stranger
seated just feet to my right carry
in secret in that gray-and-white personal
item? I’m trying not to imagine, but
it can’t be helped as I keep my own secret
wrapped in its blackness, dark of the flesh
of my rib-caged chest. The stranger who hides
inside all my life, the undocumented
guest of my breath, who knows how to cinch
the nerves to my heart in an instant, who grips
the stalk of my brain and tugs to remind me
again of the nowhere I come from, he threatens
again to expose me, my darkness, my forgery,
my assumed name in the counterfeit ink
of my borrowed tongue. This stranger comes
morning and night up the aortic pipe,
up toward awareness again while I watch
the TSA man with the odd little stamp
in his hand to affirm or not that I am
who I say, or the stranger, the terror, I am.

JED MYERS lives in Seattle. He’s author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award) and two chapbooks. Honors include Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Literal Latte Poetry Award, and the McLellan Poetry Prize (UK). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, Prairie Schooner, The Greensboro Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Nimrod, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. He is Poetry Editor for the journal Bracken.

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