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Kelly Davio reads her poem, "To My Seatmate, on a Cross-Country Flight".

Davio:
https://kellydavio.com/
https://twitter.com/kellydavio

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

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Hi, this is Kelly Davio. I'm gonna read you my poem called "To My Seatmate, on a Cross-Country Flight". 

To My Seatmate on a Cross-Country Flight

The paper mask is not for you. I don't wear it
to keep you safe from what rides with me
in Seat 17B where I'm wedged against you
through takeoff, flight, then landing. 

It isn't here—looped behind my ears
and fogging my glasses—to shelter you
from what I emit into the plane's 
closed air-system. That's not to say

I mind your thinking about tuberculosis
or a mutant influenza that's rutted
in pig dung. Or that I resent the look
on your face as you contemplate

how you'd make your meeting if you caught
what you suspect I have, wonder which clinics
flank your hotel. I'm not bothered 
by your scanning for empty seats

in this too-full, body-stacked fuselage.
It's nothing I don't do myself, and daily:
a risk-benefit analysis on whether to touch
the germ-riddled handrail by the stairs

or take a seat on the heaving train 
next to the child with his glistening, 
effluent nose. Then again, this mask
does little to help me, either. Leggy proteins

kick through paper, gravitate toward skin
in their will to replicate. See how the mask
gaps at the side? It's a reminder that we breathe
the same air, you and I. That what you inhale

I have exhaled already, strip-mined
and sucked through lungs to feed my own 
creeping blood. That though we are careful
not to bump knees or elbow the armrest

at once, we share the secret spaces of alveoli. 
Our molecules comingle. You, hale in your 
wool suit and I, knuckling my cane,
we are caught up together as the plane banks hard.