Waiting for the Gate

Joni Mitchell “Amelia”

This is not one of Joni Mitchell better known tracks but it is a very beautiful and haunting song. It has been requested on the Poetry JukeBox by my friend Stephen joniHatton. The song references aeroplanes and the female aviator Amelia Earhart who was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During an attempt to circumnavigate the Earth in 1937 she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean.

The song is a conversation between the two of them as Joni compares life and love and reflects that the things we think as true are not, she calls them “false alarms”. We think love will last forever but it usually doesn’t, we think we will live for ever but we don’t. Our ambitions can often be beyond our reach but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Like a lot of Joni’s lyrics they are unresolved and leave the listener reflecting on their own lives.

I was struck by the images in the song of the vapour trails of aeroplanes crossing the skies, here is the first verse…

I was driving across the burning desert

When I spotted six jet planes

Leaving six white vapour trails across the bleak terrain

It was the hexagon of the heavens

It was the strings of my guitar

Amelia, it was just a false alarm

Each vapour trail tells a hundred stories of people and places, where are the planes going, what are the stories of the people travelling in them? I love sitting in airports and imagining those stories, the lovers reunions, the tired traveller returning home, the young person about to start a great adventure in a new country. They won’t always work out the way they want but we humans often face these challenges with an undeserved optimism. We hope it will all work out and sometimes it does and sometimes it’s just a “false alarm”.


Waiting for the Gate


Beyond the X-Rays and the groans, moans and the fondling hands

Through the corridor of shimmering floors, Toblerones and Tequila

I find a corner chair and a view of the crowded corridor

Suits and sari’s rub shoulders with shorts and crop tops

Backpacks and trolleys trundle along to the distant hum of headphones

Rowdy stag parties have been drinking Guinness since dawn

Weary and wary parents watch their excited wayward children

You can spot a celebrity or two who still have to queue

Outside on the runway planes heave themselves into the sky

The impossible takes the improbable in to the great beyond


© Jeff Price October 2018

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