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Friday, February 12, 2010


by Judith Terzi

Wires spill out from plastic bags in seat pockets.
His children wear earphones like telephone operators.
Transfixed by music, they sit speechless.

He pulls out what I think are more earphones.
The wires are not wires but thin, black leather straps.
He rolls up a light green shirt sleeve, binds the straps

around his left arm, left-hand fingers. He positions
a small leather box on his left biceps, then another one
above his light brown hair line between the eyes.

A flight attendant stares at the small black boxes.
She tells the pilots that a terrorist may be on board––
25D is wearing possible explosive devices.

The man prays at an altitude of 35,000 feet in the middle
of bluest sky, as we fly at 504 miles per hour.
In a dark corner of a brownstone kitchen in Baltimore,

I watched my grandfather lay the same mysterious
tefillin every morning, the same ancient signs
that I never asked about or touched. His red curls

spilled out from under his kippah, a standard black one––
unlike the green-shirted traveler's skullcap, its silvery
threads meandering through deep purple velvet.

My grandfather stopped praying fifty years ago.
The traveler prays above the wings of this jet,
above the solemn chasms of the Grand Canyon;

he prays amidst a jumble of clouds. I want him to lean
across the aisle, tell me we're closer to angels,
closer to God, but the plane is diverted and lands.

Agents question the man in the light green shirt.
His children are speechless; they listen to music
while other passengers wait and google "phylacteries."

Judith Terzi lives in Southern California where she taught high school French for over twenty years. Her poetry has been widely published in print and on line. She was a runner up in the 2009 Alehouse Press Happy Hour Awards. A new chapbook, The Road to Oxnard, will be published by Pudding House Press as a finalist of note in the 2009 competition.