“The Flight Attendant,” “The Librarian,” and “The Lighthouse Keeper”

In Issue 70 by John Peter Beck

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Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash

The Flight Attendant

Stay in your seats

and remain calm.

I am sure St. Bona of Pisa

said the same things afloat

when leading crusaders

to the Promised Land.

As a saintly attendant, I hope

Bona was not patted,

accidently, on her ass

by the drunk in first class.

Storms tossed her Mediterranean voyages

as well as my flights soaring

35,000 feet above the waves.

For me, cruising altitude

is miles above the ground

but it was mere feet

atop the water for her.

I pray for safe passage each time

I board the plane,

and a quiet ride

and comfortable shoes.

I like having a saint

looking out for me,

my crew and passengers.

Each takeoff and landing

has its own short prayer:

Stay in your seats

and remain calm.

The Librarian (for Betty, Betsy and Irene)

All librarians have

at least two patrons

among the saints, but

I would not wish either St Jerome

or St. Catherine of Alexandria

on my bookish best

– too much drama!

Every librarian in my life

was devout, foremost in the love

of their true patrons, the regulars

and the newcomers, the fresh readers

hearing their first “Goodnight Moon”

and the seasoned veterans

in the mystery shelves looking

for the Burke, Deaver or Sandford

they may have somehow missed.

This day, the librarians’ hours

are filled with waiting, wanting

nothing more than a little noise

in the stacks, perfectly ordered

but pandemically empty.

Some librarians in my life

had a special love of putting

Just the right book in a young set

of hands. Others loved the words

themselves, not one word

but all words,

messy and knotty words,

flowing prose and poems deep,

undersea voyages and space journeys,

real and imagined, the face of war

and triumph, family sagas

and heroic struggles.

A patron saint may be useful, however,

when taking on the forces

of rigid orthodoxy, the haters

of different, those who would ban

or burn books. My world

expanded and exploded

when librarians unlocked

the doors, the shelves replete

with places where we can go

if we choose,

again and again and again –

learning new things each time.

I want a star in heaven

for each and every librarian,

each a patron saint

in his or her own right.

The days can be dark,

but the books shine on

because words matter,

can enflame the mind more

than this soul can say.

The Lighthouse Keeper

As the roiling waves

strike and ring these dark

stones, these unyielding

glacial shores,

I pause to imagine

the eyes of my father.

Before my tenure,

he tended this light,

taught me the ways

of the rock-strewn beach.

St. Venerius, I must admit

my desire, my desire

for more –

young, I dreamt

a city lit bright

enough to banish night.

But now, this rock

is mine,

and mine

alone, and with it

the widest horizon,

an unending expanse

of crashing blue,

the incalculable sky of stars.

About the Author

John Peter Beck

John Beck is a professor in the labor education program at Michigan State University where he co-directs a program that focuses on labor history and the culture of the workplace, Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives. His poetry has been published in a number of journals including The Seattle Review, Another Chicago Magazine, The Louisville Review and Passages North among others.

Read more work by John Peter Beck .