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Through Heaven’s Air

by Jay Harden

The thrill of being depended on
To move a bomber through heaven’s air starts with mastery,
The power of total control over something much more powerful
Than you.
And that certain knowing brings a giddy glee
That no one else can possibly understand
Unless they, too, have been chosen and initiated
Into that small, admired fraternity of military flying men,
Nodding heroes to one other and in secret to themselves, unspoken.
That supreme, hidden satisfaction of aerial navigation has never left me
After all these years.
I still long for that worth of work
In the raw beauty of uncompromising time where no excuses exist:
Be there then, or all is lost:
Your promise, or your life.
And when the fickle ticking gods change their minds,
You instantly reset yours
And be there at the new then.
To remember you were once so very much alive aches now:
Scooting around the sky, teasing the air and the earth below,
Being paid to play,
Certain that your effort meant something.

Jay Harden is a retired Department of Defense cartographer who flew 500 combat hours in Vietnam as a B-52 navigator. He has written hundreds of poems and stories on war, loss, love, and family. An essay about his aircraft won a gold medal at the VA National Creative Arts Festival in 2009.

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