A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
They were flying steady in the winter of ’56,
from Nevada, the B-25, six men on board,
three pilots and crew bound east.
At a stop in Oklahoma, the snow was heavy.
They scraped ice from the propellers.
The plane lifted like a prayer.
Late afternoon, heavy in a cloud bank,
high over the snowy farms of Butler,
the fuel gauge jolted. Thirty miles from Pittsburgh.
The pilots wrestled her steady, downward—
Find me a hole in the overcast! Someplace!
A field! No, the river!
They lowered the flaps, sailing the stunned bird
into icy waters. It shuddered, settled, sank.
Four men clung to river logs and lived.
At river’s bottom, a rusted swan sleeps.
The carp nose her shell. Beside her,
the remains of flatboats lost, with settlers
heading west, the flints of the river’s
First People, ten thousand years before.
One day, the glacier will return,
bury this shore, the sycamores, slagheaps.
For now we live, cling to what we can.
A log, a limb, what falls into our hands.
Copyright 2018 Joan E. Bauer
Previously published in The Comstock Review. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.