There’s turbulence, the plane suffering mood swings,
the good ones floaty, but you can’t count on them.
Always trust your pilot, says the Air Force flier beside me,
commuting to war, to this war,
to this war he cheerfully enters, he who is a squirrel-eyed boy
with a skin-soft voice.
Now the bad mood is lasting forever,
the plane slamming the sky as if it, too, were a body.
Fear scrambles my prayer: daily bread, cup running full,
the hallowed and bring me, Lord, out of this valley, please.
Hesiod says, Wash your hands before libation.
The Air Force kid says in the desert, his mother plane’s
gravid belly is stuffed with helicopters and missiles,
and assures me that real high up,
you’re knocking on the doorway to Heaven,
but that’s where I imagine frozen Mallory crouched
on the world’s roof, snow goggles still in the inside pocket
of his good tweed suit,
then I think of Shackleton’s men,
after the Endurance foundered and keeled,
shooting the puppies, then the dogs, then eating them,
even though they had names: Toby, Nelly, Roger.
The plane is being rung out again
like the sky’s dishrag.
To distract me, our Air Force guy peels back his shirt,
tilts his neck, exposing a sprung clavicle, a
cantilevered breastbone—from a knife, a bullet?
Perhaps he wants me to remember
his nearly submissive gesture, not just the yellow umbrellas
he told me they fix to each bomb,
briefly delaying the downward path.