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The Mile High ClubNeil Rollinson
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Vol. 23 No. 3 · 8 February 2001
Poem

The Mile High Club

Neil Rollinson

509 words

Who can think of sex at a time like this,
in a toilet a mile up in the troposphere?
You won’t find that in the Kama Sutra.

I sit in this cheap seat and rub my clammy
palms all the way from Gatwick to JFK
30,000 feet above the grey Atlantic, every bump

and shudder sends my pulse racing:
the turbulence, the sudden pockets of air
that leave your stomach a hundred feet

above you in the clouds, the plane shaking
like an old bus on a dirt road. I close my eyes
and pray to a God who doesn’t exist.

Anything can happen up here. I’ve read
the stories: the pilot’s ten-year-old
flying the plane, a bomb in a suitcase,

a spark in the fuel tank, a suicidal pilot
with a crippled daughter dying at home,
a man with a gun whose wife has left him,

the too crowded skies we fly through;
a miracle we’ve got this far,
which after four hours is still 30° west

of nowhere, nothing between us
and the drink, and the seven miles below that.
Forget about joining the mile high club.

I prefer it with my back on a mattress, a foot
above the solid earth, knowing if I fell
I’d only bruise an elbow or burn my arse

on the carpet, when the only turbulence
is the one we make of the mattress, our duvet
billowing like storm cloud as we ride the bed.

I bite my nails and count the minutes, I watch
a whole movie without understanding. I walk
the aisles like a lunatic pacing his patch of earth.

The only thing that stops me going nuts
is this unworldly beauty beyond the window,
the light on clouds, the pristine blue of the sky.

But what a way to go, you say, the sudden
cold as the plane breaks up. Imagine us falling
towards the featureless, cold sea, your hands

on my breasts, my legs wrapped around you;
we’d fuck the whole way down,
entwined like sycamore keys, our gasps

lost in the rush of air, in the vast
emptiness, in the perfect sky, while all around us,
buckled in seats, the dull and unimaginative

fall without sound. We’d hit the sea
at a hundred miles an hour, in mid-climax,
the water hard as concrete, our bodies

like two glass vases dropped on a floor;
shattered, without boundaries now, our fibres
drifting on the wave tops, fish food

for cod and haddock, for sea birds crossing
the pond, hammerheads sniffing the current,
coming from miles for the big finish.

You don’t have sex like that every day.
We circle in our stack above the airport.
Thank God for that I think, you must have

lost your mind. And anyway, what could feel
as good as this, touching down with a jolt
on terra firma, the weight of gravity

like an arm around your shoulder,
that feeling that you’ve got away with it,
that you’ve got away with your life.

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