Flying Over the Coast of Greenland

The boy in the next seat moves
his laptop so I can join him
at the window. At 30,000 feet
the shoreline appears unapproachable,
jagged Vs, consonants of ocean and crag.
At night would a village light be visible,
a slip for a boat, a minnow
of beach? Even at this height,
there are no soft lines.
Only after time and distance
do we begin to see—contour
blending into contour. How high
will the pilot have to take us
before Greenland’s coast smooths?
The boy flies alone from Dublin.
Between parents, he plays video games,
examines glacier fjords
with a stranger from Kansas.

Al Ortolani teaches English in the Kansas City area. He is happiest when his students bring their guitars into his classroom and play songs they’ve written. Al Ortolani’s newest collection of poems, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. His poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, and Tar River Poetry. He has recently been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.

You can see more of his work in issues 4.4 and 3.3