As the airplane ascends
higher and higher, he braces
for what's to come; clenched
palms, nervous sweat, jaws
chewing on mint gum to break
the buildup of pressure in his ears. 
One pop.  Two pops.  Silence. 
And then a reawakening of sound. 
The cabin lights up with voices. 
Laughter.  Humming.  Amens they
made it this far.  The pilot's greeting
booms like thunder as he predicts
the flight will be calm.  No threat
of turbulence ahead; no need for airbags. 
Just patience.  A few prayers. 
Crossed fingers when no one is watching.