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Touch Cave

by Erika Meitner

I am no bird but
I would like someone
to cradle me the way
a nest nestles its eggs
& this airport bathroom
stall almost comes
through. In the new
terminal everyone
on my flight waited
for a shuttle to Gate
D because our good
fortune at arriving
somewhere like Gate
48, spit-shined & well-
designed, couldn’t
last. I didn’t see you
on this island or in
a hotel bed or on a
train so I walked
the wet streets.
I went to a bar
where they served
drinks with names
like Wakeup Call &
Bark at the Moon.
I touched myself
the way a person
presses a button
on a soda machine
that isn’t working—
not the way you
sweep the return
with one finger for
someone else’s left-
behind change—
I’m talking after you
put your dollar in.
You have a lot
going on. We are
all beholden to
something. Every-
one is so tired.
Everyone is buffeted
by the wind. No matter
where I sit on this jet,
I am over the wing.

I am always thinking about how poorly designed airport bathrooms are when I try to jam myself into a ladies’ room stall during a layover in CLT with a carryon suitcase and a knapsack. I haven’t flown much lately because of the pandemic and this is a pre-pandemic poem. The pandemic feels like maybe the opposite of a touch cave. Every time I travel to New York City, which has been pretty much the only place I’ve traveled in the last two years—to visit my parents, who have been ailing and recovering, ailing and recovering—I fly into LaGuardia airport. And every time I fly into or out of LGA, I am always in Gate D in Terminal B. Terminal B is beautiful and brand new and has an ethereal sculpture by Sarah Sze called “Shorter Than the Day,” and a fountain with water that jumps and lights up, and a Junior’s Cheesecake stand in the Food Court. But Gate D does not have any of these things. Gate D is an extra .63 miles through the back corridors and tunnels and stairways and hanging wires of Terminal B, and when you get there, you’re basically in a Saturday Night Live skit. The Dead Rabbit Bar has a cameo in this poem, which is maybe about discovery and disappointment, or maybe about something else entirely.

Erika Meitner is the author of five books of poems, including Holy Moly Carry Me, which was the winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Meitner is currently a professor of English at Virginia Tech. Her newest book, Useful Junk, is due out from BOA Editions in April 2022.