The higher power and impersonality of satellites
and drones have nearly made him obsolete; still,
eccentrically aloft, he guides his delicate aircraft
on airstreams that flutter an enemy flag
several miles below, and he banks like the gesture
that leads a ballerina's turn, but he desires no audience.
What intricate obsession has jeweled this cockpit
with a dazzling, Latinate instrumentation?
In this black, airless sky of ice crystals,
his heat-sensitive cameras caress
an agriculture of warfare below: missile silos,
grids of weaponry, infantry and air corps
stored in barracks like dormant bees.
If he prays, probably it is a tactical prayer:
not to become a blotch of light smeared into a streak
by a radar's radial sweep. For when his wings
brush enemy airspace, he becomes a heresy against Treaty,
a target fit for the righteous, howling fighter-planes
curving up in silver clusters out of dark under-space.
In Indianapolis his wife once awoke terrified
from a dream in which ground-artillery
had blasted his airplane into a shower
of alloy and plexiglass; but in his own dream,
ejecting in time, he hangs by slender cords
beneath a dome of silk like a spider traveling on the breeze.
For those precious moments, he is borne in a world
without radio or loyalties or mission. And then he tumbles
on frozen turf or is it an orchard or a cornfield?--
slowly rises to un-clip the cords,
to assume his villain's stance like a scarecrow--
soldiers with faces
all alike flocking toward him, radios squawking
a foreign static, an orange dawn entering enemy East.
Captured, he knows he should be afraid or courageous,
but instead he simply longs for the farmland
surrounding Bloomington, Indiana.
copyright Hans Ostrom 1979/2014