Over the runway, the Fairey Swordfish hovers,
the pilot shrunk to a dot. Propellers
churn the heat, sting our ears.
It stays up there by some collective will,
and if we stare long enough
the engine won’t sputter into silence,
we won’t freeze, like extras in a wartime film,
as it unravels through slow seconds,
lurching towards us. We won’t
gather our kids, cover their heads
as the fuselage splits open,
sends fire singing through the crowd,
whose skin chars, peels and flutters off,
like papers on fortune cookies.
These things won’t happen. The Swordfish
will stay suspended in the present.
Its shadow will darken each of us
for a moment, and we will keep it
far enough above us
so the pilot remains a god,
his engine running, his face invisible.
from The Butcher’s Hands (Smith Doorstop, 2003), © Catherine Smith 2003, used by permission of the author and The Poetry Business.