Thursday, January 17, 2008

Through the Wrong End of a Telescope

This photo from the window of my bedroom
has the same colors as the tiny scene described in the poem -
except for the silver shining sea.

The poem below is 6 years old, but it seemed appropriate to the Sunday Scribblings prompt of "Fellow-travelers". I wouldn't have seen the view I describe if I had not been alerted to it by the passengers in the seat behind me, and, as word spread through the plane, we "oh"ed and "Ah"ed together for the few moments that this vision lasted. No longer were we cocooned in our private thoughts. Our excitement was shared, and for a few minutes we indeed traveled together as a single-minded group. I have never attempted to polish this poem or even to give it a title. Any suggestions?

The poem also refers to an earlier time when my fellow-travelers were my own family, chugging along in our model T. That time is also a precious memory. We always sang as we rode, the melody for the youngest, harmony for my father's rich bass and my mother's and my altos.

Here is my poem about the scene that solidified a random group of fellow-travelers into temporary comradeship:

The great plains lay behind us in the darkness
as our airplane chased the unseen setting sun
obscured by blankets, layer on layer, of cloud.

Still high above Sierra peaks a small rift opened,
a cloud-shored crevasse that pointed west, and through it
a gleaming golden patch, no larger than
a postage stamp (as measured on my window).
Red-gold water reflected hidden sun,
with black cutouts of silhouetted land--
a map of the Bay from delta in the north
to San Jose, Twin Peaks of San Francisco
limned by glint of ocean, all the islands--
Angel, Yerba Buena, Alcatraz--
as clear as letters on a printed page and,
tinier than a mouse’s eyelash, the towers
of the bridges--Bay Bridge, Golden Gate.

As a child I lived within the limits
of that small patch. We drove to San Jose
from Berkeley (in my father’s model T )
almost every Sunday to Grandma’s house
to meet the aunts and uncles, to feast upon
Grandma’s chicken soup with home-made noodles.
We watched the building of the bridges,
took evening picnics to see the cable carriage,
spider-like, spin wire, strand by strand.

Cloud curtains closed our view again, the plane
changed angle, “seat belts fastened, seats upright,
trays in stowed position.” We descended
through billows of blowing mist and saw the runway
only moments before the plane touched down.
Phyllis Sterling Smith, January 13, 2002


UL said...

what a beauty! your words made me travel with you all the way until landing! Thanks for visiting me and thus bringing me here, I am glad I didnt miss this beauty. Thank you for sharing.

UL said...

oh you can read my offering for SS at

My Journey

Anonymous said...

I was swept up in this post!

Shari said...

Such great descriptions. You made it realistic for me. I've flown into San Francisco twice this year, but unfortunately at night. I missed out on seeing any beauty.

Robin said...

I always enjoy my visits here so, you have such a way of sweeping me up into your recollections.

tumblewords said...

Vivid and revealing. The trips I make to your posts are inspiring and delightful!

gautami tripathy said...

you sucked me right into it...


susan said...

If flying felt as beautiful as you described the vistas, I would enjoy it.

I enjoy your writing. Thanks for the read.

Linda said...

You captured the beauty with wonderful words!

GreenishLady said...

That was lovely. I've missed out on the view both times I've flown in there too. Once at night, and once, no magical breaks in the cloud. Maybe it will be 3rd time lucky next time!

John Tran said...

After reading the poem, I feel I have just become your fellow traveler through time. Very enjoyable...

Jennifer Hicks said...

I was really drawn in...felt like I was sitting right there next to you..

Penelope Anne said...

Very beautiful. MY writings are in the Writers Lounge if you are interested.

LittleWing said...

so very enjoyable...the combination was a beautiful read...thank you..i want some of that chicken soup with homemade noodles...

Honey And Papa said...

What great imagery. I think the poem should remain untitled.