Dec. 20, 2005

High Flight (An Airman's Ecstasy)

by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Night Flight

by Marjorie Saiser

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Poems: "High Flight (An Airman's Ecstasy)" by John Gillespie Magee Jr. from The Complete Works of John Magee, The Pilot Poet. © This England Books. Reprinted with permission. And "Night flight" by Marjorie Saiser from Lost in Seward County. © The Backwaters Press. Reprinted with permission.

High Flight (An Airman's Ecstasy)

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of; wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sun-lit silence. Hovering there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air;
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark nor even eagle flew;
And while, with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God

Night Flight

From 18F I see only the wing,
see only metal and rivets and painted black arrows
and partially worn-off letters saying things like NO STEP.
From 18F, or anywhere on this plane,
I could see, if I want to, the video.
I could, evidently, watch ads for Buzz Lightyear, the series.
But I am watching us, the community
of 1090 to Denver. We are facing forward
as though in a tunnel or tube,
dots of light in a row above our heads.
We are ranks of readers, sleepers.

or we are the cast of Our Town;
we are cast as the dear departed,
sitting onstage on our chairs—supposed to be graves—
looking straight ahead, talking among ourselves,
never looking at Emily, the living,
when she comes to visit the cemetery.
We are not turning toward Emily;

we are numbers and letters facing forward.
From 18F I see we are regular in our posture,
regular in our habits.

In my row we are raising similar cups from similar trays,
oddly comforting:
now this head, now that one, lowers to drink.
One by one we sip our mutual nectar;
one by one we set it down.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Elizabeth Benedict, born in Hartford, Connecticut (1954). She's the author of The Beginner's Book of Dreams (1988) and Almost (2001).

It's the birthday of poet, novelist and essayist Andrei Codrescu, born in an old medieval fortress city in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania (1946). He's best known for his essays, collected in books such as The Muse Is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans (1993) and The Dog with the Chip in His Neck (1996).

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Hortense Calisher, born in Manhattan (1911). Though she has written several novels, she's best known for the many short stories she published in The New Yorker magazine, most of which are compiled in The Collected Stories of Hortense Calisher (1975). Her most recent book is Tattoo for a Slave, which came out in 2004.

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