Saturday, February 16, 2008

"The Empire in the Air" by Kevin Prufer

One of the curious things about this poem is the way in which a simile renders the poem so much less clear. As in Emily Dickinson, whose metaphors tend to offer at least two (often completely opposing) possibilities, Kevin Prufer describes a "fragile empire" to be "like a bomb" and then describes something that rather sounds that it could be nothing but a bomb. What is a fragile empire, indeed? And are we laughing and sipping our drinks as the clock ticks gently away?
"The Empire in the Air"

It was a fragile empire
with knobs and wires, like a bomb.
It lived in a blue suitcase in the airplane's belly.
It had a little screen that flashed the time
and the moments we had left, ticked them gently away.
We laughed and sipped our drinks
while the empire, wrapped in its inevitable wires,
imagined the airplane splitting like a milkweed pod,
the clothing that would burst from our broken suitcases
into the air.

Kevin Prufer

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