Ranger Flight Roger, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
I knew all the answers to the pilot exam,
knew about weather
and radio, wind speed
knew about gliding when engine cut out
wing whistles that scream in a stall
tune-ups and airstrip patterns below
landing in water, in fields, on highways, in trees
knew about take-offs and taxis
visual flight, night blindness.
In short, I could make a rudder dance.
Faking my way through the colorblind test
was another matter.
Walking back across the airport lot to my
ground bound Ranger, that heavy thing,
all drag, no lift
that long walk, from the front door of the pilot school in Lakewood
to my front seat,
I know what to do.
I slip behind the wheel and drive
down route 88
aiming for the sea
in the only vehicle
on land or air I am licensed to fly.
I accelerate, ninety degree heading,
boardwalk rising like a false dawn
I punch the gas to rotation speed,
pull back on the steering wheel
to nose up and over the boardwalk with its
dark gray concrete pilings,
the drab planks,
the white lemonade stand with
Fourth of July tanned bodies gawking at the spectacle of
me and my Ford
as we climb up and over the beach
landing gear stowed, bank gently to the south,
I dip a wing to the surf,
and me flying
over the wide, gray sea
on Independence Day.
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