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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