Apr/May 2010 Poetry Special Feature

Old World

by Jennifer Finstrom

Old World

Flying out of Chicago, it is difficult to envision
the world below me as round. Falling away
from the window is a level carpet of lights
and branching streets. The lights could be torches
or bonfires, gas lamps or streetlights. Everything
looks cleaner from here—even the alleys.
This change of perspective makes me
think of the globe my father gave me in 1987.
I was going away to college, moving my belongings
the two hour northward drive from Milwaukee
to Green Bay. As we drove, the world sat in the car's
backseat, nestled between boxes of books, watching
the fields and Holsteins with a distanced eye.

In 1987, I had only flown once and the earth
felt larger. Now my globe sits on a bookshelf,
faded by sun and in need of dusting, a world
whose boundaries have wrinkled and changed.
It exists without sun or moon, without the guiding
names of stars. It is a planet with an orbital speed
of nothing. The ancient Scandinavians
explained the movement of sun and moon
as chariots pursued by wolves through the sky.
To the Norsemen, the Sun was a girl, someone's
daughter. I see her with a sword, turning to fight
as her horses leap through endless dark.

Midflight, the pilot makes an announcement:
passengers seated on the right side of the plane
should be able to see the International Space Station
from their windows. Everyone leans to look, even
those across the aisle. I have a clear view, and
what I see appears larger than a star, alone in the sky.
Soon the pilot will let us down in the smoothest
landing that I've ever felt, but first we fly over
the borders of the western states, over the jut
of mountains, the space station now directly
above us, now moving to the plane's other side,
and I am aware as never before how every day
it is devoured by the shadow of the earth.


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