Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens

Corey Van Landingham

cujus est solum ejus usque ad coelum                   —13th C. common law

Before man dreamed up the flying machine                                    we owned the air as far above our land                    as we could imagine. Up to infinity. Downto hell. Because air, in the days of tangibleproperty, was nothing. No foot had emerged                                    from a lander onto the foreign terrain                    of the moon. No satellites passing over the hostas.The act of a horse, law says,reaching his head into an adjoining field                                    and biting another horse is a trespass.                    A word, freed from the lips, is in the aira trespass. Now, in a country divvying upthe sky, unmanned machines will be given                                    innocent passage. People will walk around                    whispering dominium as if to control at leasttheir breath. So, before the space of utteranceis duly regulated, before the 83 feet of air                                    we own above our heads begins its collapse,                    this: I love you from the depth of the earth,to the height of the sky. I love you uponland immovable, soil open to exploitation                                    by all. I am for your unreasonable use alone.                    And, when the wingèd gods finally interferewith your possessor's enjoyment, to anindefinite extent, I'll remember a time when                                    men were the ones doing harm with                    their own hands. I'll remember the words I oncehad to give to you, in the porch, in private.

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Corey Van Landingham is the author of Antidote, winner of the 2012 The Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry and Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens, recently published by Tupelo Press. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2014 and 2020, Boston Review, The New Yorker, The Southern Review and Virginia Quarterly Review. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Wallace Stegner Poetry Fellowship from Stanford University, she teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Illinois.

"In a world where drones are named for the messenger god, who is also the god of thieves, where a wedding celebration can be shattered by a missile fired by no one at all, in a world of destruction-by-proxy and a fever dream of omniscience, Corey Van Landingham gives us a beautiful, penetrating book of poems. These pages fairly shimmer with intelligence. And with something more important too: with insight that restores us to our senses."
—Linda Gregerson

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