The poem of the month for February 2021 is “For Friends Missing in Action,” by Walt McDonald.
Walt McDonald served in the Air Force before he became a poet. He and I were, for a short period of time, fellow faculty members at the Air Force Academy. After he left the Air Force he taught for many years at Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas. His best poems are scenes describing the flat West Texas landscape and flying. This poem combines both subjects.
For Friends Missing in Action
Often, I’ve caught a glint of silver,
fliers trusting their dials and wing tips.
Odd, walking flat sand after years in a cockpit,
caught between the earth and angels. How many loops
and barrel rolls, thrusting from earth
inverted. How many dives and pull-outs,
straining to stop blood rushing from my skull.
I see young pilots on TV, faces lined
from their masks, cropped hair and ancient eyes,
the stance of tigers. I remember Millard
and Roy Carnes shot down in jungle,
Bob Ross and Jones, and Billy Rae Moegle,
the squadron clown, dragged through Hanoi
still missing—fellows on fire with laughter,
God on our side through any skies we dared,
the future paved with runways heading home.
From Selected Poems, published by TCU Press, 2016.