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Unread 03-08-2003, 08:33 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
Lariat Emeritus
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Fargo ND, USA
Posts: 13,816

I would be remiss if I did not call to our members' attention this very big, ambitious poem from No Word Of Farewell.

Randolph Field, 1938

"Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew!
If you'd live to be a gray haired wonder,
Keep the nose out of the blue!"

Framed by the open window, a lone Stearman
Wobbles, dips right, dips left, then dives and banks
For touch-and-go, seeming barely to miss
The sunlit "Taj Mahal" and a stray egret
That has mistaken grass and shimmering concrete
For salt marsh. Two flies on the windowsill
Wait for their chance. The wind-sock hangs limply
In the thick heat, and lunch is still uncleared.

Indeed, the messtray resting on the nightstand
Has not been touched, or hardly--half a wiener,
Succotash and boiled carrots stirred around,
Even the tea and gingerbread just tasted,
And the young man there who has no appetite
Has raised himself up from the sweaty pillow
To watch some fledgling's first attempt, as stirring
As a scene from The West Point of the Air.

It slips from sight. He leans his head back, dizzy
From the slight effort, shuddering against
The squeal of tires, the buzz-saw radial engine
Over-throttled, straining up to a stall,
And then, the day's sole miracle, the steady
Hum of the prop--somebody else's luck.
For now the chills have come to spike his fever,
Everything holding true to course but him.

The skinny nurse who takes his temperature
Charts the latest, 102.8,
And then connects the dots with a red line
That climbs and plummets like a rookie's struggle
To keep the nose cowl flush with the horizon.
It would be funny, but it simply isn't,
Even when Szulic and Rosenthal, his buddies,
Saunter in after class with cokes and Luckies.

He'll envy them that night when, after supper,
He lies in bed and smokes. It isn't easy
To think of them with girls along the River--
Dancehalls, music, beer, all with such sweetness
In the mild evening air he'd like to cry.
He has missed the chance, like Aaron Rosenthal,
To burn above Berlin; like Thomas Szulic,
To spin in wingless somewhere over France.

A decade and a war still to be crossed
Before he is my father, he is only
One of the Dodos, barely voting age,
Washed out a week before he gets his wings.
A radio is playing now. Kay Kyser.
. . . To be in Carolina in the mornin' . . .
It's hard to think of what he must go back to.
He banked on everything but going back.

Off to the southeast, thunderheads are building--
Heat lightning flashing like imagined guns,
Faint thunder and a breeze that brings the Gulf
Into this place of starched white sheets and Lysol
Where he lies watching three red points of light,
A late flight coming in for night approach.
He shuts his eyes and tries to think of nothing
Before he sideslips into dreams of fire.

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