Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FIRST FLIGHT, by CAROL COATES



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FIRST FLIGHT, by            
First Line: The day, brittle with ice
Last Line: The cryptic notations of even flight.
Alternate Author Name(s): Cassidy, Alice Caroline Coates
Subject(s): Aviation & Aviators; Flight; Airplanes; Air Pilots; Flying


The day, brittle with ice,
snaps underfoot,
and newly sifted snow
holds the sunlight in a soundless peace.
No motion stirs,
not even a bird cuts its black flight
against the turquoise sky—
not a whisper of wind
shivers the naked trees
or drifts the swans-down snow
across the wide chill sweep of runways
merging the roads of earth and sky.

The hangar doors slide to the touch
and superb in the armor of the skies,
sheathed in immaculate steel,
the scintillating chariot of the air
rolls to the take-off.

Slowly the motor's music
climbs to a crescendo
where speech sinks into pantomime,
and thought shudders into silence.

Then, spurning the ground,
up, up, on silver pinions
like a skimming bird topping the trees,
we climb the horizon's arch,
as sovereigns of speed and power
challenge the zenith's goal,
as partners of the winged gods
omnipotent in thought,
pluck the sun from its orbit
or trace the constellations
to their lair.

Sheer precipices of space
greet the falling gaze,
catapulting the eyes down, down,
through islands of spun mist
to the unreal lake below,
to white oil tanks lying like hatboxes
on the shelves of the winter sun,
toy trains shunting matchsticks
on playtime tracks,
narrow ribbons edging the fields
where creeping dots glint like beetles,
and from horizon to horizon
we marvel at a world made in miniature
to meet a table top.

Forgetting our feet tread the ethereal air,
careless of time, of safety,
we soar,
regarding security as some old friend,
till the curve of an unsignalled corner
parches the tongue with terror.
What if the panting engines fail
or the pilot's hand forget the swing
of an aerial arc!
But the perfect pulse of the great bird's heart
and the smooth glide of parallel wings
make trivial the novice fear.

Though oblivious above,
time below demands an end.
We circle,
then down the steps of the sky descend,
deserting the clouds,
beckoning away the trees, the house-tops.
Too soon, in a miracle of poised flight
the waiting wheels spin to the runway's touch
and shorn of wings we taxi the field,
grieving at solidity below.

A diminuendo in the deafening music
signals an end,
the tempo of the propeller's beat
slackens to its rallentando close,
and the blade falls,
like the final note of a symphony
secure and come to rest.

The sensation of feet stabbing the earth
loosens the limbs
and wakens the mind to the nonchalance of a steady hand
entering in the log book
the cryptic notations of even flight.





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