Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Lost Pilot by James Tate

The Lost Pilot 
       for my father, 1922-1944
Your face did not rot
like the others—the co-pilot,   
for example, I saw him
yesterday. His face is corn-
mush: his wife and daughter,   
the poor ignorant people, stare
as if he will compose soon.
He was more wronged than Job.   
But your face did not rot
like the others—it grew dark,
and hard like ebony;
the features progressed in their
distinction. If I could cajole
you to come back for an evening,   
down from your compulsive
orbiting, I would touch you,   
read your face as Dallas,   
your hoodlum gunner, now,
with the blistered eyes, reads   
his braille editions. I would
touch your face as a disinterested
scholar touches an original page.   
However frightening, I would   
discover you, and I would not
turn you in; I would not make   
you face your wife, or Dallas,   
or the co-pilot, Jim. You
could return to your crazy   
orbiting, and I would not try   
to fully understand what
it means to you. All I know   
is this: when I see you,   
as I have seen you at least
once every year of my life,   
spin across the wilds of the sky   
like a tiny, African god,
I feel dead. I feel as if I were   
the residue of a stranger’s life,   
that I should pursue you.
My head cocked toward the sky,   
I cannot get off the ground,   
and, you, passing over again,
fast, perfect, and unwilling   
to tell me that you are doing   
well, or that it was mistake
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune   
placed these worlds in us. 


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