Introduction to my Latest Effort

By Robin Hemley

I wrote the next poem I’m going to read this
morning on the plane
I’m not sure it’s very good
but I kind of like it and I thought I’d share
my latest effort with you.
Would you like to hear it?
I think it’s going to be the first in a series
of poems about emergency exits
because I was sitting in the emergency exit row
and the flight attendant came around and asked me
if I was willing to assist in the event of an emergency.


I was tired and didn’t hear him
correctly and I thought he had asked if we were willing to exist
in the event of an emergency.
Which startled me because sometimes
I have suicidal thoughts and I must have looked
alarmed because he asked me if I knew
how to speak English and if I wanted to be moved.
I told him I thought he had asked me if
I was willing to exist and he laughed and said,
Oh sir, we assume the answer to that question is yes.


Robert Hemley is the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently DO-OVER! (Little, Brown, 2009), for which he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. He currently directs the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

Originally appeared in NOR 8.

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