Saturday Poem / Taking Flight

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Three poems by a former flight attendant

My In-Flight Training Instructor Liked to Tell This Inspirational Story

of the flight attendant who, on her way
to an early sign-in at LaGuardia,
choked on a muffin.
The muffin was whole grain.
The flight attendant was driving.
She pulled over, got out of her car
on the Grand Central, threw her body over the hood, and Heimliched herself.
She hocked out the muffin,
got back in the car, fixed her hair,
wiped muffin-spit off her regulation silk scarf
and made it to the airport
in time for sign-in.
"That's the kind of dedication we're talking about,"
the instructor, a perked-up blonde with the furriest
face I've ever seen, crowed.
"She could have died," I said.
"Exactly!" the instructor said, and beamed.


The young girl at the window doesn't speak English.
The old man in the aisle seat
has trouble seeing.
He's helping her open a package of cheese.
She smiles and nods.
He squints and swears.
The cheese is a problem.
He can't see the two small perforations
that would make this simple.
I lean over to help but he swats me off,
and tells the girl about all the jars, their lids
hopelessly stuck, that he opened with ease
when he was young, like her.

No Amount of Money Can Get You a Better Coke Than The One the Bum on the Corner is Drinking

It's the most popular drink in the sky, more popular than champagne. The great equalizer, Andy Warhol called Coke, the drink of a democracy.
"The president drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too," Andy said
to explain why he painted it.
Andy Warhol was from my hometown.
Pittsburgh. All working-class grit.
Andy's family ran a junkyard in Carrick.
His real name was Warhola.
He didn't like to admit that.
He liked to say he was from New York.
He liked to say he was a robot.
Diet Coke cuts through anything.
After a bird strike, pilots ask for Diet Coke
to clean the blood and feathers off the windshield.


Lori Jakiela is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh's Greensburg campus and in the MFA program at Chatham University ( Her collection of mostly narrative poems about her former career as a flight attendant, "Spot the Terrorist," was just published by Turning Point Press.


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