Signs

by Alan Perry


He looked troubled as the request
came over the intercom.
Blind and deaf, he didn’t hear
the flight attendant or see the girl
who pressed the call button
and said she could sign.
His long gray beard was uncut
his hair disheveled and his squinted stare
seemed to plead—water?

The girl cupped his curled fingers
around hers and began to spell
words he couldn’t speak.
Like many on the flight, strangers
unable to talk with each other
over chaired walls
through separating curtains
across divided aisles.

He didn’t want water, she said
only some company
in his muted space at 40,000 feet.
He grasped her every letter
each curve and clasp
stroke and symbol
that laced their fingers.
He couldn’t see it
but nodded at the smile
she left in his hands.

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2 thoughts on “Signs”

  1. Alan – I meant to tell you at the family gathering how much I appreciated this poem. Rick (my husband) has just retired from the Disability Law Center where he primarily represented clients who are deaf, and some who are deaf-blind. Those clients often had to deal with the pain of isolation. As your poem shows us, there is real power in just connecting – even imperfectly – across languages. Look forward to your next book! Best, Susie Macpherson

    1. Susie,
      Thanks so much for your kind words about this poem. “Signs” was based on an actual event that occurred in 2018. I was struck by the news report of this teenager’s action and the beautiful, caring, poignant moments of humanity she displayed in helping this isolated man. Best to you and Rick,
      Alan

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