Paradise; Pilot

Jennifer Elise Foerster

Paradise

We carried the swifts in wheelbarrow loads
from factory windows, chimneys.

Lit our fires with peat,
our backs to the murmuring forest.

After the rain, dust motes.
Ghosts in a glade of shade pine.

Now we no longer know the names
for flowers, cannot unfurl them
nor the stars’ coils.

We flare in heaven’s refinery,
raise our smoldering flag.

Pilot

Circling, your wooden wings
claw at wind—

wind in a canyon
once a sea, where floods
once reached the tails of birds
clinging to clouds by their beaks.

You are scaling the mountain’s
time-cut teeth, chert face
packed with black trees, ice.

You weave a ladder of sun—
gazing to heaven,
eyelids waxed shut.

I track your shadow
in painted snow,

cross the widening plains beneath
shifting hands of fog,

kick the rocks of gods—
their tridents and stumps,
stony mouths.

Oh aerial somersault,
downdraft of sound—

I see you falling.
The ploughman keeps ploughing.

There was no angler to pull you out.

And anyway, you were not falling from the sky—

no shepherds to witness the tail of your dive,
no purposeful ship masts passing by.

Your legs were not corkscrewing from the water.
No rush of air in your falling.
No final gasp, the snap—
no breath.

I bank the rocky ramparts,
pitch against the rain.

A shadow wings over granite.
Conifers drop their sapphire stones.

I stow one under feathers, tuck
the other under tongue—

I can almost see forever
you had said
three miles above the earth:

parachutes, silk filaments—
airmen passing through.

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