Stephen Dunn

On Hearing the Airlines Will Use a Psychological
Profile to Catch Potential Skyjackers

They will catch me
as sure as the checkout girls
in every Woolworth’s have caught me, the badge
of my imagined theft shining in their eyes.

I will be approaching the ticket counter
and knowing myself, myselves,
will effect the nonchalance of a baron.
That is what they’ll be looking for.

I’ll say “Certainly is nice that the
airlines are taking these precautions,”
and the man behind the counter
will press a secret button,

there’ll be a hand on my shoulder
(this will have happened before in a dream),
and in a back room they’ll ask me
“Why were you gong to do it?”

I’ll say “You wouldn’t believe
I just wanted to get to Cleveland?”
“No,” they’ll say.
So I’ll tell them everything,

the plot to get the Pulitzer Prize
in exchange for the airplane,
the bomb in my pencil,
heroin in the heel of my boot.

Inevitably, it’ll be downtown for booking,
newsmen pumping me for deprivation
during childhood,
the essential cause.

“There is no one cause for any human act,”
I’ll tell them, thinking finally,
a chance to let the public in
on the themes of great literature.

And on and on, celebrating myself, offering
no resistance, assuming what they assume,
knowing, in a sense, there is no such thing
as the wrong man.