* * *
We would fly up like geese
From fields soggy with rain -
Twenty takeoffs a day, please -
Too fun to explain!
We would laugh, taking fog banks for sauna steam.
And we’d stuff ourselves tight
In the vastness of space,
And the cumulus white
Shredded to ragged lace,
And the bullets would stitch the clouds back Into parachute seams.
At night we’d sneak back our way
With no gauges at all,
Fuselage and propeller blades
Riddled with holes,
And the gunner hung limp on the straps in behind.
Down our flesh chills would creep,
And the steering would jam
And would shudder and beat
A tattoo, like the drum
When the circus trapeze act is doing a trick death-defying.
We would land on one wing, all askew it,
And the memory still tightens our nerves:
It seemed, the machine couldn’t do it,
Didn’t want, was unwilling to serve.
Today the machine and me
Dance two as one:
In the sky, all to see,
In an emergency run -
Don’t you stab me up there in my back, somehow!
This flight we will weather,
We’ll eat when it’s through -
So we’ll be landing together
On the field, we two,
Because I do not dare abandon you now.
True, I’ve been around
And I see the signs
In that one-winged two-faced
partner of mine
Of a player who bluffs, hiding all his intent in a lie.
But ignore all the omens;
I spit on the lot:
The machine has a limit -
Whereas I do not.
We will see in this flight who will sing and who’ll cry.
Buddy, if you and I will get through it
We will not be consigned to reserve.
Who said the machine couldn’t do it,
Wouldn’t, and isn’t willing to serve?