At a Motel Near O’Hare Airport


From the Archive

Photo: NARA, 1973

Jane Kenyon’s poem “At a Motel Near O’Hare Airport” appeared in our Winter 1975 issue. 

I sit by the window all morning
watching the planes make final approaches.
Each of them gathers and steadies itself
like a horse clearing a jump.

I look up to see them pass,
so close I can see the rivets
on their bellies, and under their wings,
and at first I feel ashamed,
as if I had looked up a woman’s skirt.

How beautiful that one is,
slim-bodied and delicate
as a fox, poised and intent
on stealing a chicken
from a farmyard.

And now a larger one, its
tail shaped like a whale’s.
They call it sounding
when a whale dives,
and the tail comes out of the water
and flashes in the light
before going under

Here comes a 747,
slower than the rest,
phenomenal; like some huge
basketball player
clearing space for himself
under the basket.

How wonderful to be that big
and to fly through the air,
and to make so great a shadow
in the parking lot of a motel.