by Barbara Claire Kasselmann
In the deserts of the great Southwest
they hunker in sand.
Mute against sharp barren mountains
they sit in long, perfect rows
at air force bases, old airports
outside Tucson, near Mojave, Edwards
at Roswell, New Mexico; and Abilene, Texas.
Arms outstretched like great birds of prey
coasting in for landings
tails still high and cocky
silver noses round and proud,
these silent sentinels from earlier times:
Braniff, KABO, U.S. Air Force
FedEx, Southern Air, Aloha,
stare blankly in the blinding desert sun
at those who come to look, to photograph,
to pay homage to once proud fighter planes
and bombers, to sleek airliners, sturdy cargo carriers.
Whence these old bones
who streaked across the sky
carrying a country's burdens to foreign lands
businessmen to Bangkok, sons returning home,
happy couples to Hawaii or New York?
No longer slick young bucks
strutting their stuff
at the high school dance
no longer brash and bold
the latest thing out of Boeing, Grumman.
Too many wars, too many passengers
too many government contracts, too many miles
another gas crisis or terrorist threat
has clipped their wings.
Replaced now by newer engines
lighter frames, faster speeds
by the thousands these old bones stand
meek in obedient rows.
Too ungainly to fit in museums
too costly to haul away
they appear just tired, worn out
waiting for they know not what —
Lucky ones will be restored and retrofitted
for other lives, or be reborn in some far foreign land.
Dry desert air will keep them whole
till someone maps their future.
A hot desert sun does its best
to make their silver shine once more.
Here, in the high dry air
asleep in vast sandy graveyards
in the deserts of the great Southwest.
Copyright © 2016 by Barbara Claire Kasselmann.