France’s accident investigation agency has abandoned a search for the ‘black boxes’ from the Air France passenger jet that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.—BBC, 20 August 2009
The sea hadn’t risen, but dropped,
Swirling up through the suction tube
Deposited—one day, unexpectedly—by the sun
Like a giant, blazing mosquito.
Water dripped from overhangs,
Braided through troughs, draining
Away from mountain ranges, and left
Seaweed bladders, clustered, like green penises.
The age of aviation was gone
And now they accessed heavens through tunnels
That had diminished their oceans,
The clear, oval walls, salt-frosted.
Plane crashes were events of the past
And he considered them as you would
Canvas of a wagon train set ablaze or
Sherman bowties of the rails, from your ages.
From the last disaster they’d recover
The cockpit voice recorder.
Halve a peapod—stiff, fibrous spine,
Green berries dangling on curlicews—
And you have their navigation device:
Helmets networked to a data vine.
Sometimes he sucked the spongy
Wind muffler on the built-in microphone
Like a pacifier as they trekked
Fishstrewn hills, cuttlefish draped
Like shawls on the horns
Of uprooted trees. Spurts of white noise,
Overtures to messages
From the lead recovery team, interrupted
His thoughts. Ganged, ambulating,
They struggled up and slid off
Slopes, butt-first, like sled teams, carpets
Of kelp—barnacle-studded—thumping underneath.
On an outcropping they spotted
It sitting, and halted.
He’d seen a hurdy gurdy once
In an engraving on a digitized page
Of a dictionary, a cylinder grafted
To an oblong, though this lacked
A crank to coax the sound out—“a piping,
Mesmerizing drone,” it was described;
In fact he had never heard such.
He squatted down, his finger poked
The rust-burned skin: printed,
Numbered instructions on its front were rendered
Hieroglyphs by corrosion. He fantasized
Voices within, suspended in numerical
Limbo as they coursed through protocol
The moments before the inevitable compressed
The thinning wedge of hope to converging
Lines in the pie chart version of their death.
On shoulder straps, in a basket,
They carried it back to the lab.
A proliferation of amazement
Makes for a kind of indifference.
The eyes adjust to prolonged exposure
To brilliance by normalizing colors.
View each day through the lens
Of a birthday, or as you would walking out
On the morning after a hurricane,
When every scene carries the weight
Of a promise, a celebration, or as only
Sunlight bouncing off havoc—
Treetops bunched in the street—
Can rattle perception,
And you familiarize the exceptional.
Living in a capitol you grow blind
To monuments; mythologies turn
Indistinguishable from the furnishings.
And so the voice described
Its infinite day in the afterlife.
In the middle of the stream
Of its words a name was dropped
And its effect was a rock’s
On a current. Everything else he heard
Was shaped by it—language damaged
At its obstruction, or smoothly glossed over it.
As the voice droned
His imagination wandered
As if newly born, trailing umbilicus
Between its legs, dazzled by sights
Dangerous in their potential as a box
Of matches, after witnessing one strike:
He saw a place, intimate and remote at once,
Without history, yet a sense of time running
Away, a garden where green wheels
Of corruption were spun by wind in dry grass.
It slipped from him, that name, in saliva;
A prophesy of a kind, “America.”
After the flood, or at least
When water unlaced its fingers
From the streets of London, New York,
Calcutta, and the wobbling ring
Of reflected moonlight was pewter
On the sidewalks, in the moment
You’ve heard this, you’ll have been
Made aware of your future.
My words were made forward-compatible
At a time when we were losing
Languages daily, idioms that had been
Mothers to culture were left
To spend their remaining days
In the shade of fanning palm leaves,
In straining wicker beside
Tables, each with a half glass of water.
I have much to talk to you on
But I am losing the delivery platform.
They found a file of pictures
On a memory device in a plastic
Snap case lodged among intestinal
Wire and mircoprocessors’
Tridents and nodes. Pixel integrity
Had decomposed and, scrolled
On the monitor, some had grown black
With only a pale quadrant of light—
Like a square nimbus—at the frame’s
Edge. One showed a young woman
At a mirrored vanity, combing, shot
By a mini-cam through a pinhole.
Others were scans: a product manual
Of an airport security installation
That launched jets of air at passengers’
Bodies and found explosives.
There was an entire treatise,
On warfare and the cortex.
The voice had begun to revert to sonar
Pings like those it had been programmed
To emit when activated
By disaster. Through flooded canyons
And off the flanks of leviathans
It had broadcast these until power
Diminished, and the pings grew episodic,
Weak and eventually vanished.
He wrote: you see me from
Your dark side of the road
Walk out of the night
And back into it—shadow to shadow—
In the interim, glowing under
A gas station portico
Whose four light posts are
Four blazing heads, my dress around
Me illuminated, my body outlined
In it, as if wrapped in a flag.