Please Come Flying

An Invitation after Elizabeth Bishop

From half a world away, across an inky ocean, on this fine evening,
please come flying.
The journey will be long, and the tips of your toes
will sag into the misty clouds, unsolid and hazy.
You will forget who you are by the time you are halfway there.
But you’ll hear the ocean lull and sooth you
you’ll pass over islands no person has ever seen
and maybe spot the mermaids the old mapmen drew
when they didn’t know what was actually there.
You’ll have to be quick to spot the flash of fin or
breach in the waves, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Please come flying.

You’ll know you’ve arrived because you will have tired hours ago,
and the expanse of ocean will,
without your noticing,
become an expanse of sky.
It will feel like the first time you’ve ever seen sky
like something out of Plato.
Please come flying.
Your toes will catch on the tips of the minarets
piercing the sky to get closer to god.
If you hear them singing, don’t be alarmed
just watch the people swarm around the door, slip off their shoes,
and step inside to join the chorus.

Day will break, and though the cloud of dust and smog
may make this difficult, you’ll see all the pinks and oranges
reflected back at you in the buildings’ iridescent chromes.
You will see yourself in these reflections
your tires eyes, your hungry spirit
Forget what you thought you knew about this place,
about yourself. Come and see it anew.
Please, come flying.
Come and see what I see
all the things I cannot explain.
So much of who we are is where we’re from
and where we landed, so
please come flying.

Read the signs in English, and watch the
even, metered waves of Arabic rise to meet the words
standing in sand at the edge of some forgotten beach
waiting for the water to meet your tired feet.
You will not have long to wait.
Of course, if Arabic were our mother tongue
it would lap along like a whispered stream
stopping only when it met
the Latin alphabet’s haphazard blocks.
Please come flying
so we can do all the tourist things
I never do when I’m alone.
We can watch the sailboats tiptoe over the waves
take a long walk in the cool dark
play at being ourselves in a place where
everybody seems to be playing at somebody else.
Come and see how beige can be both
warm and cool at the same time, like sand or love.
There are so many varieties of sand and love.
We can sip oversweet tea or windowshop
or watch for falcons, though I’ve never seen one
and I don’t want to disappoint you.

Please come flying—
we can watch the people, all regal black and white
airy columns that drift across the sandy ground
rather than walk upon it.
Between them, sunbursts of color, glittering saris and
t-shirts with brands you’ll recognize
driving their big white boxes
or dusty white trucks with red stripes
Toyota or Toyta or Tayto painted along the tailgate.
Look at all the people trying.
Come and see the delicate iron of the lorries,
gates to a secret garden full of tires or TVs or camels.
Look at all the neon signs, with their big block letters
telling you exactly what they are.
If only we could be so certain.

Look at the nets under the date palm trees,
come and taste the dates
the smoke of the oud still clinging to their skins
feel them squish in your mouth,
earthy and grainy and sweet, like hope.
We could watch the cricket players strive
to win a game we don’t understand.
Or we could drive out into the desert at night,
as far as our bravery will allow
and look up at the grand, multitudinous sky
listen to what quiet sounds like
because we are hearing it pass through us
for the very first time.
If only for the sky and the quiet, but also for me,
from half a world away, across an inky ocean, on this fine evening,
please come flying.