- Ailerons & Elevators
The backward see The wise don’t say a word
Three dreams, one foolish And two meaningless Are haunting me, disturbing me
One says A golden road was plotted out for you In dreams, of course
But that’s not where you are When you awaken
The danger is seeing the world as two extremes The afternoons of rushing home to see her Balanced against turning the corner Hoping that her car will not be there
Daydreams are better
Nice— watching the planes come in On the last day of summer Airport peaceful
Passengers are few On flights answering demand more than desire Their stress has been at home Or will come later
They deplane calmly
When the Wright boys and their friend Paul Laurence Dunbar Finished high school in 1890 Their neighbors knew That they’d go high up in this world
Paul as an elevator boy in downtown Dayton Orville and Wilbur Going swimming in thin air
Unfortunately, They’d never heard of Richard Gallup David or Romare Bearden, either [End Page 181] Such are the baffling deficits that time imposes
They never dreamed Someone would use an airplane To drop bombs made of oilfield dynamite and set Greenwood aflame Andrew Smitherman fleeing in 1921 from Tulsa to New York To the edge of America
What is this shadow Cast across the coming season?
In the still watches of the Negro night, Fear rising like mist off a bayou, The danger in the world Is seeing it as two extremes
Is this full moon so indiscriminate That even liars prosper if they have launched Their web with the new moon?
This autumn equinox A harvest of deceit Leaves the ground rugged. The harvest done, the fields outside the city flat and sere A single egret stands in the parking lot at the Post Office Poised and confused
The world automatically recoils Into itself
Are you ready for football? For serious business Are you ready for war?
People throughout all history Have lived in ashen cities or died in them Marcel Duchamp was joking Wasn’t he, as always when he said Dust-covered glass Might offer auguries Of our predicament
O mirror, mirror
How have my people been distracted so They don’t care any longer who they are?
How so misled that they believe Punishment does not apply To crimes committed in their name? [End Page 182]
Must war morph from Nintendo game to spectacle To get attention?
If all are suspect Could my own duplicities Be causing this— The way we’re all responsible For air pollution
(if you keep breathing
If you believe in magic, yes
And that same magic, yes Could stop the rush to madness, too
There are still scraps of summer laughter On the street There’s still some music from two backyards away The Funkadelics and Jay-Z resist denial
But here’s The truth:
You have the right to keep your mouth shut
Across the room A person looking like a crazy version Of somebody you once knew Might be our Savior One who can draw fire Out of ashes At least a lover, maybe The one to take you up a little higher Or let you down easy.
But don’t look this way,
It isn’t me [End Page 183]
Lorenzo Thomas (1944–2005) was a professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown as well as an internationally acclaimed poet and critic. His poetry collections include Chances Are Few (Blue Wind, 1979/2003), The Bathers (Reed Books, 1981), Sound Science (Sunbe/am, 1992), and Dancing on Main Street (Coffee House, 2004). Thomas's critical monograph, Extraordinary Measures: Afrocentric Modernism and 20th-Century American Poetry (U of Alabama P, 2000), was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book. His works have appeared in many journals including African American Review, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, and Popular Music and Society.