The pilot swallows a gutful of fear.
The Boeing 777X burns downward.
Fire started smaller than a fingernail,
splintered to a handful of brightness
June white. He’s frantic, drunk on disbelief,
the moment, a mockery of order.
He thinks of death, the yellow dust
of cremation. Everything checked out
on takeoff: auxiliary fuel pump, flight
controls, instruments and radios. He
did nothing wrong. Bad luck has splashed
into his blood like a destructive kiss.
The plane noses through damaged clouds
toward Knoxville, sweeps heaven aside
as if it were imagination’s bad idea.
The pilot loses dimension after dimension,
continues to clutch the yoke, sweats
chill of being on stage in a final scene.
The plane, a costly dream, coils earthward
away from a tiny, white pearl of sun.
The pilot gulps air, his throat dry
as cactus, swallows inevitable truth
that strangles light.