Strange Landing by Zilka Joseph with comments by Third Eye Staff

The air smells different here,
the airport looks dressed up, people cold.

One of my favorite lines is "the airport looks dressed up," because it so clearly conveys the intimidation she feels. – Laura Crouch, age 19

I dread the Immigration officer. Eyes
check my passport, my face. He asks
so many questions. My dullness annoys him.
One more scouring look from him,
and I’m through. Everything hurts.
 
On the other side, the carousel groans.
I look for my suitcases- bought second-hand
in a battered street where an aunt took me-
bargained with the shop owner in a way
only she could, her oily voice beating him down,
then me peeling precious rupees from my wallet.

The description of a voice as oily shows us more than just what it sounds like but the person behind the voice. – Patricia Schlutt, age 17

Suddenly I am glad to be far from all that.
 
My lumpy luggage appears-
islands carrying the ragged spirit
of home, my history, my geography.

I love this image of the islands. And the ragged spirit—it’s strange, but rings true, like the carousels are dragging the suitcase along. This fits with the hollow feeling of the airport, too. – Rachel Talen, age 23
The luggage are islands holding her identity, just as her far-away home must seem as isolated as an island from her new surroundings. – Kara Madden, age 24

My future, my past wrapped
in the skin of the present-
the bleeding torn skin of the now.
My trapped woman-heart pounds,
my girl-child feet freeze. How do I
force myself out into the thick air
surging behind those glass doors?

All her apologies to people and things as insignificant as a bottle of mustard emphasize her weakness and vulnerability, as do the phrases "woman-heart" and "girl-child feet." She does not see herself as brave of powerful, although her decision to start over in life shows that she really does have courage. – Laura Crouch, age 19

 
I find a porter, learn they are called skycaps.
He is handsome and I feel shy. His giant
hands lift my suitcases as if they were tissue.

Traveling has a way of making you feel small; I think the image of the hands is a great way to show this! – Rachel Talen, age 23

He sweeps me towards Customs. I trot
behind him, flustered. My mouth
utters soundless apologies like mantras
to the skycap, the officer, the airport,
my hurtling suitcases, my Bob Dylan cassettes
and the bottle of Bengal mustard
squeezed last minute into my hand bag,
to my hands, to my face, to the air I breathe,
and most of all to my husband
whose face I suddenly can’t remember.

What a wonderful way to end a poem! The whole time it seems like she is trying desperately to hold on to who she is, and the ending makes us so unsure if she is going to succeed. – Patricia Schlutt. age 17
The dynamic tension in this poem is built up effectively and carried out with tremendous skill. The poet mirrors the displacement of the speaker in the frantic pace of this final stanza, and leaves the reader on a precipice for an ending that is anything but tidy and comforting. A bold statement. – Kyle Austin, age 23
This poem weighs heavily on the reader. The dread and the groans bring out the hurt in the body and the hurtling loss of control at the end only adds to the weight. But the truth of it all is refreshing. The poet is obviously not afraid to get lost in the depth of memory, even at their darkest moments. This courage is incredibly poetic. - Rian Bosse, age 21
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.