The woman behind the counter        practices
her pleasant demeanour                   on me. Her stapled smile
shows a set of perfected teeth.         I take a snapshot
of hers and pin it                               on my face,
while handing her                             my boarding pass
and passport. She flips it                  to the last page.
A faint trace of recognition               presents itself on her face:
my passport                                      has not expired, and
I am found matching                        my own image on it.
At the boarding terminal,                 surrounded by duty-
free shops, I wait                              duty-bound for the journey.
My flight: a Boeing 737                    to India. Stopover: London.
In 15 hours, I will have shed            my first tear
for my father. But first                      I have to locate my seat.
That is, go past the smiling              cabin crew; go smiling past
the cabin crew. I hang                      my snapshot ready.
I have chosen an aisle seat.             No blue horizon to look through,
just a blacker one to stare               into. Beside me,
an Indian woman                             is reading Grief Is the Thing
with Feathers
.                                   The flight takes wings.
To my left, a child cries.                   The take-off pulls the plug
from under our feet.                         I succumb
to my sleep, waking up only            when my meal arrives.
Asian veg. A bowl of rice,                 a bun, a square of jam,
an orphaned orange-slice                and a mug of warm tea. I smile.
The airhostess believes me             and goes on to believe
other passengers.                             For the moment all I have
is a fruit bowl of reactions               to choose from –
reactions to suit                               the moods of people, who are
like me, busy emptying                    their bowls. Marmalades
and mashed potatoes…                    I eat, masticating
my grief along with                          a broccoli floret.