V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





In the brisk, pleasant voice of a surgeon
introducing his choice operation
the Air Force assured us how strictly
professional it is.  Armament,
radius, objective: each word neutral
as a steel tool rinsed and drawn clean
from the Latin—a scalpel, a sterilized needle.
And we watched the latest knife:
five General Dynamics F-15s
like a five-card hand on the prowl
curve out over downtown Topeka and cut,
break east with a spurt, a sharp
black smudge, and they're off on a new
vector, they are carving together;
that whole hand is rolling over
like one moving card revolving itself
to flash all spades at once,
chased by the ragged mass of their roar,
the heavy furniture they trundle behind them
being hauled, torn over every rough floor
in the sky, rolling over roofs, ripping
and mending as the sixth svelte blade
clicks into formation, completing
this steadily traveling phalanx,
and there in the hazy autumn sky
we see this oldest formation of power,
abstract force focused in one ghostly
capital letter: s.  The idea cruises
above us this afternoon, meeting
no resistance at all, circling
as if looking for victims.  Nothing up there
to rape, but it can't stop moving;
it's coming back low, flat over the field
to shock it for kicks, the whole
history of the wedge is bursting
straight up the sky, trailing white crepe-
paper streamers in one, grand, Fourth-of-July
finale, fanfare proclaiming its victory,
Force flaunting itself, flexing
its engines, crowing, deafening us
with its form of laughter
as it lets its whole tool hang out
unsheathed, vertically, over 10,000 feet,
shaking it, shoving it in our faces.

© by Jonathan Holden


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