Two Poems by Libby Northup

Libby Northup

On the Flight to Santiago de Chile

My head is leaned against the pillow
flap of the seat. An ache
shoots up the right side of my neck
like electric waves
 through power lines (or so I imagine).

Sleep invades my mother,
taking each station of her brain
and her body, 
ultimately leaving her with her eyelids drawn.

We’ve just flown over La Paz, Bolivia,
and my legs are stiff and stale
like bread in open air.
I wish the ground were less solid, 
less like a power smushing my feet into place,
into cooperation.

Sleep invades the aisle,
scrunching each of its victims
into beetle-like balls:
shoulders hunched and rounded, 
neck in a crescent. 

The peaceful hum of the cabin
and the air conditioning 
does not stop the heavy breath of my neighbor
from finding its way to my eardrum

Sleep invades the plane
like a parasite,
gaining rows
then sections,

My brain is static, 
buzzing with fuzzy black and white
but producing nothing.

Sleep does not invade me;
it only tickles me and tortures me,
abandoning me in my hypnagogic state,
abandoning me in my misery.

Driving through the Mountains

Focus. Breathe. 
It takes tremendous concentration, 
driving through these mountains.
The dirt roads are narrow and lined
with rocks, fallen trees, debris.
Keep your eyes straight ahead.
Ease your foot onto the gas.
Keep your turns tight.
You’ll feel like the trees are swallowing you up,
and it will be charming
and this driving will be a challenge that is simple,
that is manageable.
Focus. Breathe.
Listen to your tires move the pebbles
beneath you, the sound that proves
you are far from the city.
The pressing. The crunching.
Isn’t it gratifying?
Distance from the challenge that seems
to spiral into uncontrollable loops,
the challenge of tumultuous relationships,
the challenge of all-consuming work,
the challenge of the everyday.
That is far away now.
Focus. Breathe.
Roll a window down,
let the air of elevation lick your face.
Lick it back: it tastes like wilderness.
It tastes like a little bit of liberty.
Be here.
The trees are greater than you,
allow them to remind you 
of your relieving and pleasant tininess.
Fade into them. 
Focus. Breathe.