Our headline from last night could very well be repeated today:
In fact, to say things are confusing might even be an understatement.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people on board disappeared Saturday while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. That much seems to be known for sure.
It's also being reported that authorities say the last message from the plane's cockpit was "all right, roger that," when air traffic controllers in Malaysia handed the flight off to controllers in Vietnam. After that, authorities have said, there was no communication of any type.
But as today's other reports underscore, little else can be said with any certainty:
— Was It Or Wasn't It Off Course? "A senior Malaysian air force official on Tuesday told CNN that after the plane lost all communications around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, it still showed up on radar for more than an hour longer. Before it vanished altogether, the plane apparently turned away from its intended destination and traveled hundreds of miles off course, the official said. It was last detected, according to the official, near Pulau Perak, a very small island in the Straits of Malacca, the body of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra."
That account matches comments attributed by the Malaysian newspaper Berita Harian to Gen. Tan Sri Rodzali Daud, chief of Malaysia's air force. But — and here's a prime example of the confusion surrounding this story — he later denied saying that radar had tracked the plane to the Straits of Malacca.
According to Reuters, "Indonesia and Thailand, which lie on either side of the northern part of the Malacca Strait, have said their militaries detected no sign of any unusual aircraft in their airspace."
— But, The Search Continues To Widen. Though Rodzali is now denying he said that military radar had tracked the plane to a point about 200 miles west of its intended route, the search for the jet "expanded on Wednesday to cover a swathe of Southeast Asia, from the South China Sea to India's territorial waters, with authorities no closer to explaining what happened to the plane or the 239 people on board," Reuters writes.
So, even though Rodzali says he didn't tell the newspaper that there's radar evidence showing the jet flew over the Straits of Malacca, the search includes that area.
Meanwhile, there's this news from Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "Vietnam sent a crew today to search the Vung Tau area in the nation's southeast after a person said he [had] spotted what appeared to be a plane on fire and sent an e-mail to government officials. Earlier this week, an aircraft had alerted Hong Kong air traffic controllers about sighting metal debris in the sea near Vung Tau, Vietnam's Civil Aviation Authority had said."
This morning's bottom line: We don't know much more than we did last night, and we may not know much more for some time.
"Finding missing aircraft can take days or months; unraveling what went wrong can take years."
Note: The confusing and conflicting reports about Flight 370's fate show how, as often happens in stories such as this, information is reported by officials and news outlets that later turns out to have been incorrect. We'll continue to sort through what's out there and update if things change.
Death and birth; grief and hope; fear and elation — these seeming opposites are made of much the same stuff, asserts Kevin Young in his eighth book of poems, which works to wrap itself around the extremes of a father's death and a son's birth. In a kind of poetic daybook or diary, Young tracks his unfolding emotions in the aftermath of his father's death, and, in a separate set of sequences, narrates his growing anticipation in the months leading up to, and then just after, the birth of his son.
Young marshals the same linguistic resources to manage the depths and disorientation of mourning and the dizzying bewilderment of welcoming a new life. At times, he calls on crystal clear description, breathless narration of the unfolding of time: Young confronts grief with absolute precision in a two-line poem that simply reads "In the night I brush/ my teeth with a razor." And he gives a graphic play-by-play of birth that in the unforgettable poem "Crowning," in which we see "your cap of hair half / in, half out, and wait, hold / it there, the doctors say ... "
Elsewhere, only Young's brand of jaunty metaphor can carry this weight or anchor this levity. Longing for his lost father, Young writes, "Whatever the well / you want me // To fall down I will" — one of the loveliest, friendliest figures for the wish to rejoin the dead. Poems addressed to the unborn son offer equally companionable invitations to join the living:
... The ultrasound
you swim in,
bow. Your first
appearance is black
and white, like the beginning
of words, or a world.
Young has always mined the depths of the vernacular, seeking the timeless in the quotidian. In emotional territory as extreme as this, his gentle metaphors sometimes have the effect of making the heart seem like a more habitable place than it may, in fact, be, but readers may nonetheless cherish and want to linger in that inaccuracy.
For instance, the most poignant expression of the father's absence comes in the form of his dogs, now without a master and temporarily under Young's care:
They do not bark.
Do they know he is dead?
They wag their tails
& head. They beg
& are fed.
Their grief is colossal
Each day they wake
seeking his voice,
By dusk they seem
to unremember everything —
How could one not love them? Who has not been them? Dogs grieve like our hearts — "colossal / & forgetful" — but not like our minds, which argue, bargain, deny and dramatize.
Young's grief isn't always so adorable. This book also contains some of the first good, and often graphic, poetry about organ donation, in which the idea of saving another life is asked, and numbly fails, to assuage Young's sadness over the loss of his father, whose liver he says is "set like a bloody stone/ inside somebody / else to save."
Still, despite all the pain and conflict they represent, the dogs are pleasant to hang out with. Equally good company is the family addressing its unborn son in hopeful poems:
Son, what we learn
your first trip
to Paris is this: you love
Indian cuisine, croissant,
and Fra Angelico — or maybe
that's me. Soon
as curry creeps mama's
lips you start to kick.
And kick. My hand
on her stomach's music
can send you to sleep —
Of course, awaiting a child isn't all hope and giddiness, and Young does find his way into the murk of fear and ambivalence that one must also expect when expecting:
I now know pain
is part of any journey —
that this is the opposite
of grief, but grief
the only way I know
to describe waiting
and waiting without
knowing, hoping one day
joy will arrive.
Once again in these lines Young twins grief and hope: it's the book's first and last insight, the one it keep trying to prove and re-prove, most profoundly in the closing title sequence. There, Young laments, "It's death there / is no cure for — // life the long/ disease," and yet, he concludes, "Why not sing."
It's best, this book seems to say, to make equally good friends with grief and hope, in order to survive them. And if one is going to throw words into the mouths of the dead and the unborn, it's wise to make them kind words — the kind of words one wants, and needs, to hear.
*Some of the language in the summaries above has been provided by publishers.