“I love the hour before takeoff…” begins US poet laureate (1993-95) Rita Dove in her poem “Vacation.” Whether you’re jetting off for a July getaway or sipping lemonade on your own porch, you’re sure to enjoy this slice of summer life.
I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.
In On the Wing, University of Iowa Press
(c) material used for educational purposes
- Are you headed somewhere this summer? Write about your anticipation or other feeling generated by the trip.
- Write about a memorable vacation.
- What’s your “hour before takeoff” airport ritual?
- If you were on a fantasy “Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17,” where would you be off to?