In a World War I Film of American Pilot Training, a Goofy Cadet Is Being Filmed as He’s Rapidly Spun on a Militarized Piano Stool, an Experience That’s Supposed to Simulate An Aircraft
Going Down in an Uncontrolled Spin.
(for Frank Luke and Mel Blanc)
There’s no point in explaining, not when
he’s yet to fathom how the spinning’s
not a Spad in a flames, his silhouette
on the ground stretching out to take him,
a Boche ace on his tail still firing,
even as he crashes, to confirm
the kill, to mark his spot, to return,
toast the wreckage, hunt for souvenirs:
This kid still believes he’s bulletproof.
They stop his spin, yank the black bag off
his head. He stands unsteady, grinning
at the lens, as two soldiers help him
gain his footing, walk him out of frame.
For the training film’s purpose, he fades
into the unsurvivable, beige-
all-else he’ll stumble through, amazed
how things just work out for him. Good luck’s
his twin brother. It’s the same old shuck:
the American way confuses
anything at all with sufficient.
It’s why he’ll survive the First World War,
why he’ll found the international
conglomerate Acme, chastizer
of cartoon roadrunners, enabler
of coyotes’ everlasting hopes.
At a Stoplight in August, Quitting Time, & All of Watkinsville Catches the Same Light, Heats the New Road’s Asphalt Molten with Exhaust and Gunned Motors
I turned off the radio to watch a hawk
sifting the sky, the ground. He saw movement,
fell like a hammer after what he was stalking.
A tussle, weed witnessed, and the hawk rose, a lament
gaining altitude, slowly, with attendant circling.
I saw, finally, the rat. He ran to the curb, hesitant,
took a solid beat, looking up before jumping,
began an up-tempo buck & wing on the molten asphalt,
a spate of grands jetés under and among waiting
cars, trucks, the hawk swooping low to assess the gestalt
beneath him. He never stopped floating,
but didn’t drop, pinned as he was to the cobalt.
I told my friend Mary, and Mary reported
how the rat wasn’t dancing, how his feet nose vibrations,
how the skin there, thinner than an ex-wife’s, sorts
dark intentions. She gave me documentation,
but I don’t care about rats’ feet, generally.
Hawks’ wings, yes, for they soar above commotion.
So . . . she thinks this. I think that. What I’ll eventually
keep is the rat bopping the hot pavement.
It makes me grin and makes me resent
what Mary said about membranes, changing habitat,
ecological specialization. It’s too much
to evaluate. I’d rather believe in dancing rats.
Anybody would. That’s just common sense.
Samuel Prestridge lives and works in Athens, Georgia. He has published work in numerous publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, The Arkansas Review, As It Ought To Be, Poetry Quarterly, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, The Lullwater Review, Poem, Pedagogy, and The Southern Humanities Review. “I write poetry, he says, “because there are matters that cannot be directly stated, but that are essential to the survival of whatever soul we can still have. Also, I’m no good at interpretive dance, which is the only other option that’s occurred to me.” He is a post-aspirational man whose first book A Dog’s Job of Work is seeking publication.