about the author

Philip Memmer is the author of four books of poems, most recently The Storehouses of the Snow (Lost Horse Press, 2012), and Lucifer: A Hagiography, winner of the 2008 Idaho Prize for Poetry from Lost Horse Press. His poems have appeared in such journals as Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Poetry London, in Billy Collins’s “Poetry 180” project, and in Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” column. His fifth book, Pantheon, from which these two poems are excerpted, is forthcoming in early 2019.

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Two Poems  

Philip Memmer

The God of Wind

I spoke to you through walls and chimneys
           sashes and shutters and screens
           but you—

I swept up leaves from your branches
           trash from your gutters
           hair from your face but—

I touched you through gloves scarves hats
           layers of cotton layers of wool
           but then—

and if now your sails cling to the mast
           if now your ship clings—
           well how should I—

knowing when I spoke to—
           knowing when I swept for—
           knowing knowing when I—

The God of Sky

Because you have always been
          a model passenger,
          pretending to watch

the pre-flight safety instructions,
          always willing and able
          to perform

the duties required of those
          in exit row seats,
          I leapt into action

and removed you from your crashing plane.
          It was a small thing—
          the exit door

already blown away
          by the smuggled device, your lap-belt

despite the fact (your only sin)
          the fasten seatbelt sign
          was clearly lit—

I forgave you and brought you here,
          the freezing air
          of 20,000 feet.

Whether you’re better off than those inside
          is yours to say—
          I’m not the god

of safety or soft landings. Those
          still panicking
          in the doomed fuselage

have, along with oxygen masks
          and seat cushion
          flotation devices,

the same time left that you do, more or less.
          And they have
          each other, screaming...

You have nothing but falling
          and the wind your falling makes.
          You’re shaking, yes,

but you have the horizon
          at sunset, and the earth’s curve.
          And I will stay

however long it takes you
          to flurry through me,
          if that’s all right. I wish

—how I wish!— I could be
          the god of flight,
          or out-of-thin-air parachutes,

or even the god of death, so I
          could end this.
          I’m not. There is no god

of death, or parachutes, or flight.
          Just sky. I hope
          it’s a comfort to know

that I am with you. I hope
          it’s a comfort to know
          you’re almost flying.

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