Photography © Glenn Bowie
It was just the other day I went looking
for those aviator sunglasses that once belonged
to my father. I meant to wear them as a lark
as our newly elected president has a fondness
for that same style. I meant to celebrate
the election result.
I think of the many times Dad told his story
about washing out of flight school
—Army Air Corps, Waco, Texas, 1947—
the flight test he failed on account
of one moment’s inattention —or was it
hesitation —some intricacy about throttle
and stick —a maneuver that
required this counterintuitive sequence
of power, flaps and trim, to induce a deliberate stall.
He’d mishandled for a second, then recovered.
How it crushed him when
in a glance to his mirror he saw
as his instructor, in place in the cockpit behind him
watching, calmly logged the mistake.
There’s a photograph my father kept from that time.
He’s dressed in flight gear,
his parachute pack hangs, straps loose, behind
him; his hand rests on the lead edge of his aircraft’s wing;
an ear-to-ear grin on his face, he wears those glasses.
Aglow in Texas desert sunlight, he hasn’t yet learned
of his failure.
Washing out, as it was called, was a ritual process
he described for me many times: the way the cadet enters
the room where a panel has convened on his flight status;
the square cornered military gate and salute required,
taking seat —only the edge three inches allowed, back straight,
eyes forward. They’d reviewed his weeks of training and performance,
every detail, and finally, though their decision was already plain,
they asked him if he thought he was a good pilot.
He told them that —he knew— he was a good pilot
and saw only out of the corner of his eye
as his instructor smiled.
Dad would point out, whenever he told that story,
that had he not washed out he would have ended up
flying combat missions over Korea, the brave, bold fighter pilot
he’d always dreamed of being
might have survived, but likely would never have come back
east and met my mother —made this life.
Mostly he sounded thankful when he said this;
there were those times it seemed he was also,
in some small way, sorry.
Those glasses, a greenish black, wire metal frames:
the polarized lenses only admit a certain kind of light.
Tom Driscoll is a poet, essayist and opinion columnist whose work has appeared in print and online editions of local and regional news outlets and various opinion blogs for nearly two decades. A few years back he even took a stab at being a performing songwriter. He’s written in one form or another from as long ago as he can remember.Tom has published several collections of poetry, most recently Odd Numbers. He lives and works in Framingham, Massachusetts with his wife, artist Denise Driscoll.
Glenn Bowie is a published poet, lyricist and photographer from the Boston area. He also owns and operates an elevator company that supplies custom-built elevators for clients from New England to Hollywood. Author of two poetry and photograph collections (Under the Weight of Whispers and Into the Thorns and Honey) on Big Table Publishing, he donates all profits from his books to various charities for the homeless and local animal shelters.