Falcon 9 by Jessica Conley
In alternating day and night shifts, you work at O’Hare, preparing the albatross. Outside the hangar, the hours choke with exhaust. Wearing, as always, your blue Dickies, you de-ice planes’ wings each winter. How long it lingers—the scent of jet fuel in the fold of your cargo pockets. Last year, once the wind was less cruel and the ice cracked in plates on the surface of the Chicago River, you bought a camera to journal the rites foreshadowing spring. Those late winter weeks wake the same. Salt washing from the sidewalks. The Ferris wheel illuminated in stillness at Navy Pier. The camera brought you awe, burning among the constellations, my brother who never sees the stars. Our father thinks there should be more evenings ending in fireworks, but you’ve seen enough light falling into Lake Michigan. When Delta finally granted you three vacation days, you waited six hours on standby for a seat to LA. The night you walked along Hermosa Beach, a rocket launched—a prisoner’s cinema of blown glass escaping to the sea—its contrail a gash on the horizon hours after you took the photograph. You had searched skyscrapers for beauty; it arrived, beyond the high-rises, sudden and impermanent in a smoke line on the face of the sky. In an ocean that gave itself to fire.
Jessica Conley teaches literature at The Steward School in Richmond, Virginia. She is also an MFA Poetry student at Virginia Commonwealth University where she earned her BA in English and MA in Secondary English Education. She has been published in literary magazines such as The Gordian Review and Not Very Quiet.
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