A Toy Airplane
nestled among the hills
between the hospital and the air force base.
The angels fluttering above the lamps in the parking lot
The boy who rode the elevator to the highest floor
At night it pulsed thickly—
strange root, nocturnal eye opening—
though by day it returned to itself,
a black fist buried loosely in the dirt.
Sometimes, during take-off, his room filled with such roaring
he felt as if the tumor had split apart,
though he knew this was an airplane,
afterburners receding over the fields.
Sometimes, the quick skid of landing waked him
to his mother’s hand
resting warmly on his forehead.
Darling, darling, she said,
smoothing his hair.
I have brought you things from home.
From the hospital’s top floor,
he watched angels flutter above the parking lot
like translucent insects.
If he looked closely, he could see the bombs
beneath their wings
before the airplanes tipped and veered,
disappeared over the hills.
He dreamed the elevator shaft
rose up and up
like an endless throat,
and he rose with it.
Darling, his mother told him,
did you eat?
Darling, here is a book, here is a soldier,
here is a toy airplane from your room,
do you remember the airplane,
it’s the one that hung over your bed—
When the planes dropped their bombs,
some dug into the earth,
where they grew thick-skinned and large,
or so he imagined
pressing his face to the glass.
I held you in my arms, she said,
and I carried you around the house,
but you cried and cried, I could not make you stop,
I set you on the bathroom floor and ran a bath
and—it must have been the rush
of water—you closed your eyes,
Below ground, the tumor,
many-layered as an onion, grew pale and glowed.
You were like an angel, asleep on the bathroom floor—
when the abrupt thump of a body against the glass
its translucent wings quivering,
brittle-skinned, thin-tailed, its thorax ridged
and pulsing greenly—
wake up, she was saying, wake up—
and the curious angel,
face pressed to the window,