Poem - Thomas - Chest of Wings

With a Chest of Wings, Caliban in Blue

        for Walt McDonald


As a child, he spent hours on end

staring into the cloudless blue skies

above Lubbock, watching for hawks

riding thermals, their talons clutched

like nooses pulled taut.


In hard winters, he studied hawks

frozen upright atop fence posts,

their talons sunk a half-inch deep in cedar,

eyes locked wide-open,

beaks parted with bubbles of bloody ice.


He spent hours on end

watching and studying hawks,

as if he knew he would crouch one day

strapped inside the fuselage of a fighter jet,

a fighter jet nothing but a hawk itself


with plumes of gleaming metal,

whooshing through the skies of enemies,

positioning itself for a dog fight;

as if he knew, with luck and God's good grace,

he'd make it home again


only to dream of those who didn't,

the unlucky ones parachuting to the clutches

of Charlie, buddies with the eyes of hawks

locked wide-open, riveted

to their trembling, helmeted skulls.


by Larry Thomas

from As If Light Actually Matters: New & Selected Poems


As heard on Texas Poets Podcast, October, 2015