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Port of Aerial Embarkation

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There is no widening distance at the shore—
The sea revolving slowly from the piers—
But the one border of our take-off roar
And we are mounted on the hemispheres.

Above the waning moon whose almanac
We wait to finish continents away,
The Northern stars already call us back,
And silence folds like maps on all we say.

Under the sky, a stadium tensed to cry
The ringside savage thrumming of the fights,
We watch our engines, taut and trained for sky,
Arranged on fields of concrete flowered with lights.

Day after day we fondle and repeat
A jeweler’s adjustment on a screw;
Or wander past the bulletins to meet
And wander back to watch the sky be blue.

Somehow we see ourselves in photographs
Held in our hands to show us back our pride
When, aging, we recall in epitaphs
The faces just behind and to each side.

The nights keep perfect silence. In the dark
You feel the faces soften into sleep,
Or tense upon the fraught and falling arc
Of fear a boy had buried not too deep.

Finally we stand by and consciously
Measure the double sense of all our talk,
And, everyman his dramatist, anxiously
Corrects his role, his gesture, and his walk.

John Ciardi, “Port of Aerial Embarkation” from Other Skies (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1947). Used with the permission of the Ciardi Family Publishing Trust.
Source: The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997)
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Port of Aerial Embarkation

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