- The Future
More than anything the old man loved his only son so on weekends, against his young wife’s wishes, he flew that strange boy high above the city in his Cessna Skyhawk. Up through the snow squalls into turbulent clouds so the boy laughed when the plane shook and, Look, the old man said, look, where the clouds parted and there were the tall towers, there was the highway thick with cars, there was the neighborhood of his youth grown new and sprawling, swimming pools and shopping centers. It was such a pleasure to show his son these things that when his heart stopped, who could deny that the old man, high above the city of his childhood, died happy?
Hello? the boy said into the radio. Hello? pressing the green button, then the black one, the airplane having retained [End Page 3] its equilibrium. But he could not work the radio, could not answer the worried voices, the plane skimming above the rooftops and highways. Hello? he said, punching the buttons again, speaking into the fist-size microphone.
Hello, the treetops answered as the plane roared past. Hello, the rooftops called, shuddering in the wind and snow. And the nation that listened to the news rushed to its thousand windows to watch him pass. And, Isn’t it strange, the nation decided, how we are, all of us, plummeting onward? And, Isn’t it lovelyhow the past recedes into white distances, lovely boy with his face pressed to the glass while the city thinned, a strange and useless drone humming in our heads—
Harmless, darling boy, we thought—his plane like a toy. We caught him on our camera phones, compiled him to the Web. [End Page 4] And how will it end? asked the Internet, voice of billions. Into a building or down in a field? Pixilated child, his father, like any of us, sunk deep into his happy past, cheek to the window where he slept his last. And the scene- comprehending hard drives purred and clicked as the airplane crossed our screens—
+ and lit our rooms with blue. I was one of those who waved from my front porch as he roared past. Hello, I called, hello, and thought I caught a sadness in his face that later I observed more slowly on my screen.
Many times, I watched him slide past snow squalls and the harbor until, far from shore, his engine dead at last, the speck of him slipped downward into the glassy ocean. [End Page 5]
kevin prufer’s books include Churches, In a Beautiful Country, and National Anthem. He is coeditor, with Wayne Miller, of New European Poets and, with Martha Collins, of Into English: An Anthology of Multiple Translations, the latter forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2016.