POEM LXXVII: “NACHTHEXEN”

Here’s a secret to winning war:

You don’t need to be the fastest.
You don’t need to be the biggest.
You don’t need to have the best equipment.
You also don’t need aluminum wings,
an engine larger than a lawnmower’s,
guns,
or parachutes.

Here’s what you do need:

An engine so weak and cold it won’t show up on infrared.
Canvas wings so ancient they don’t reflect radar.
A speed so slow that, in turning,
you can stall out every other fighter in the sky.

And a woman so brave that she will bet these weaknesses
against every other country’s strength
sixteen times a night.

So dedicated that she will lay on the wings of that plane in a snowstorm
for twelve hours at 54 degrees below zero
to keep the winds from overturning her plane.

So selfless that she will draw spotlights and fire
in the slowest plane in the skies
so another in her regiment can slip in unseen.

And so daring that when she approaches her target,
she will cut her own engine and glide,
so as not to be heard.

Imagine that moment
the slow thwacketa-thwacketa of the engine coming to a stop
the whistling in the wires of the wing braces.
The night air is cold and fresh.
Everything is peaceful.
A secret is in that silence.

Listen.

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