By B. H. Fairchild b. 1942

In the early stages of epilepsy there
occurs a characteristic dream .... One is
somehow lifted free of one’s own body;
looking back one sees oneself and feels a
sudden, maddening fear; another presence is
entering one’s own person, and there is no
avenue of return.

—George Steiner

Outside my window the wasps   
are making their slow circle,   
dizzy flights of forage and return,   
hovering among azaleas
that bob in a sluggish breeze   
this humid, sun-torn morning.

Yesterday my wife held me here
as I thrashed and moaned, her hand   
in my foaming mouth, and my son   
saw what he was warned he might.

Last night dreams stormed my brain   
in thick swirls of shame and fear.
Behind a white garage a locked shed   
full of wide-eyed dolls burned,
yellow smoke boiling up in huge clumps   
as I watched, feet nailed to the ground.   
In dining cars white table cloths
unfolded wings and flew like gulls.   
An old German in a green Homburg   
sang lieder, Mein Herz ist müde.
In a garden in Pasadena my father   
posed in Navy whites while overhead
silver dirigibles moved like great whales.   
And in the narrowing tunnel   
of the dream’s end I flew down   
onto the iron red road
of my grandfather’s farm.
There was a white rail fence.
In the green meadow beyond,   
a small boy walked toward me.   
His smile was the moon’s rim.   
Across his egg-shell eyes
ran scenes from my future life,   
and he embraced me like a son   
or father or my lost brother.

B. H. Fairchild, “Flight” from The Arrival of the Future. Copyright © 2000 by B. H. Fairchild. Reprinted with the permission of Alice James Books.

Source: Poetry (October 1984).


This poem originally appeared in the October 1984 issue of Poetry magazine

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October 1984
 B. H. Fairchild


B.H. Fairchild was born in 1942 in Houston, Texas, and grew up in small towns in Texas and Kansas. The son of a lathe operator, he attended the University of Kansas and the University of Tulsa. His poetry explores the empty landscapes of the region of his birth, and the lives of its working-class residents, including his own family and friends. Frequently described as a poet of the “sacred,” Fairchild’s work has gained renown . . .

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SUBJECT Health & Illness, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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