Fying from New York to Athens,

I am seated next to a man named Frank.


35,000 feet in the air,

high above sea level,

far from swelling waves –


a tsunami of tents strewn

across a refugee camp

on a burnt out military base;

a different kind of sea,

one I have yet to witness.


Frank says-

To make a difference, open your heart.


I used to believe it was that simple-

before I boarded this plane bound for Greece,

before I struck up a friendly conversation

with a stranger named Frank,

before the seatbelt sign blinked on.


This plane whips around,

whether I like it or not.


I want Frank to know we are always

in someone else’s hands.


An open heart won’t grant asylum,

strengthen marriage, hold a lover,

tear down borders, cure cancer,

stop bombings, or create a gentler river

of wind in the atmosphere.


The only thing to do when caught

in turbulence, is find that sweet spot.


Fly, like the captain of this plane,

with the intention to steer through chaos.

Fly, as fast possible, while burning

the least amount of fuel.



Loretta Oleck, 2016 Pushcart Poetry Prize nominee, is the author of two poetry collections, Songs from the Black Hole (FinishingLine Press), and Persephone Dreaming of Cherries (Hurricane Press). Her poetry and photography have been published in The Stockholm Review of Literature, The Adirondack Review, The Missing Slate, Obsidian Literature, Black Lawrence Press, So to Speak: Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Feminist Studies, Picayune Magazine, Poetica Literary Magazine, and WordRiot, among numerous others. She received an MA in Creative Writing from New York University.