Poem of the Month, July 2022

The poem of the month this month is one of my poems. It describes one of my more interesting adventures when I was in pilot training in central Texas many years ago.


Dodging the Butte 

Early one morning, solo in my small training jet, 
practicing maneuvers in my assigned area west of Snyder, 
I decided to explore a cloud deck that was moving
slowly south, low above the surface of the flat west Texas plains.  
A thin layer, roads and fields visible beneath.  

I dipped a wing, pulled power back, 
dove through the thin edge of the gauzy cloud, 
banked left along a country road, 
followed it for a time, then pulled up  
through the cloud into the open skies above, 
a metal porpoise playing in a foam-filled sea.  

A second effort, farther west, through thicker cloud, 
the ground lost briefly from sight then visible again 
underneath the white layer, lots of room to spare 
as I rolled wings level, a hundred feet above its deserted surface, 
I might have been a rancher checking his fence line. 

Once again above the cloud, I sought a new section 
to explore.  Farther west, a cloud layer more thickly woven, 
one white bubble rising above the ground-covering blanket.  
I dipped the left wing in a shallow turn, banking to the west, 
easing into the whiteness, waiting for the ground to appear.  

A red light flashed past my right wing, cloud-shrouded, 
Attached to a tall tower, neon lights shining up from the ground, 
a blinking traffic light at a road intersection, not fifty feet 
beneath me, a gas station, restaurant, obscured in the cloudy 
morning darkness.  The road below vaguely visible 
through the dark gloom.  Ahead I see a dark object 
rising to a height above my flight level too high to pull over.
A solid rock butte standing up darkly in the grey cloud, 
Growing larger in my windscreen.  The road below 
angles to the right, past the object.  The road my guide, 
I follow it, the butte a black shadow now past my left wing 
as I pull up hoping for sky.  

Later, I checked my map.  
I had flown out of my training area, to a section where
the ground rose gradually.  My final dip through the solid cloud layer 
had taken me over a small Texas town, whose early rising residents 
had witnessed an early morning flyby 
from a young air force flyboy 
cruising past in exhilaration and fear 
westbound over Highway 180.  

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