The Web: Flight Home to Unalaska

by Rebecca Goodrich
written on 11/4/97

Will I make it home? 
It's a question we ask 
when we climb into the airplane 
take off our hats, stuff gloves into pockets, 
slip off our boots.  We relax.  Take-off is always 
fine.  We wiggle our toes inside our sox 
and head off for the Bush. 

As many variegated edges as a river, 
has this frontier of ours. 
Some have names:  Dillingham, King Cove, False Pass. 
Further west, we slip into vowels and soft aspirates:  Unga, 
Belkofski, Ounalashka. 
The syllables soften, like the endless clouds 
the engines are pushing through, 
an altitude eternal, infinitely blue. 

The sound creeps into our heads. 
The pros wear ear plugs or speak 
loudly, already deaf. 
Yawn, cat-nap or hash over old times, 
next year's fish and caribou. 

It's a hunting trip now; 
we are tracking down land. 
It's out there, somehow, 
floating in this mist-wrapped world 
floating otherworldly, out of reach; 
we will never touch down. 
We have been flying for hours now. 

You never step onto the same island twice. 
Yet it is home, there it is! 
We find it bobbing on the waves 
near its customary location 
athwart two great, unruly oceans, 
whose friction creates the air we use 
to touch down. 

We bid the mountains to stay back, 
give us passage to the air strip. 
We approach the field--a flat place-- 
arm-wrestled from land that was rocky for 
millions of years. 
We hold our breath, 
to show the wind how to do the same; 
each landing a cooperative effort, much like 
fishing, fighting, loving. 
We feel the wheels bounce down 
the thrusters blast to halt the plane 
before its nose gets wet in Dutch Harbor. 
Now we exhale, now we applaud, 
how easy now 
to believe in God, 
the pilot, the mountains, the wind, 
all the forces of nature 
who have given us this day. 

So many departures in Alaska life 
so many turnarounds.  So many hours of waiting 
await us in Cold Bay. 
Even the storms do not stay 
forever, even they fly away 
like the ravens 
who greet us with the neighborhood news. 
From their opened beaks 
we hear the sound. 
Oh we never understand. 
All we know is touching down 
and walking upon the land. 

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