by Ian Haight


“...furthermore, some good advice, that I received myself in infancy. Don’t
strike your father, but take these wings in one hand and these spurs in the
other; imagine you have a cock’s crest on your head and go and mount your
guard and fight; live on your pay and respect your father’s life. You’re a
gallant fellow! Very well, then! Fly to Thrace and fight.”

                                                    —Aristophanes, The Birds 1363-9




I am deeply ashamed that in the twenty-seven years of my life I have been such an unworthy son. Revive a glorious past for the sake of a glorious future. The difficulty of the journey you made to see me was clearly evident in your disheveled hair and in the hollows under your eyes—it made me want to bend my knees and worship before you. Assassinate the King of Korea. In the wrinkles on your brows was vivid testimony of the pains you took to raise me. Bring 14-year-old girls to comfort stations. Words could not express my feelings, and what little I did say was superficial in the extreme. Target civilians. When you took my hand and passed it over your chilblains, I experienced a sense of profound peacefulness unlike anything I have experienced since joining the military—like being a baby again and longing for the warmth of a mother’s love. Portray commanders at Nanking as heroes. It is because I bask in the beauty of your deep devotion that I can martyr myself for you—for in death I will sleep in the world of your love. Bayonet prisoners for practice. Washed down with my tears was the sushi you prepared with such loving care, for it was like putting your love to my lips. Experiment on cities to see how long they survive plagues. Though I ate but little, it was the most delicious meal of my life. Wounded can’t eat gruel when tetanus turns to lockjaw. And Father, your silent words are carved deeply into my heart. Quiver in the petals of the Emperor’s Chrysanthemum Throne. The war zone is where these beautiful emotions are put to the test. Vivisected human hearts do beat in a nurse’s hand. If death means a return to this world of love, there is no need for me to fear it. Some families may receive jars of black charred bones. There is nothing left to do but press on and fulfill my duty. Train the pilots to be worth more dead than alive. At 1600 hours our meeting was over. If Imperial Armies retreat, put lines of middle school boys in front of the invaders. Send the girls out with knives and tell them not to surrender. Watching you walk out the gate, I quietly waved goodbye.

II:  Specter: August, 2001

A leg twitches. Against
the plane’s window, he lean-slumps. An arm
jerks, the thumb, with no nail,
like a heavy-ended hooked

He looks out the window:
a first-time flier? A tremor
           rides the hand
with the apple juice. 
                                  He asks,

“Where ya headed?” 
                                                    “Oh yeah? 
Whattya do over there?” 
                                          “I teach
at a university. How
‘bout you?” 
                      “I fly airplanes
for the military. Air to ground
                 “Oh, you mean those tank
                       “Nope. You’re
talkin’ about the A-10’s. I fly
AC-130’s. A 105mm cannon
and side guns. We take out buildings,
bases, all kinds of stuff.” 
it’s a low flying vehicle?”
“Technically no. We fly at around 10,000 feet. 
If you stick your finger up,
I can laser sight it
at that altitude. I can eliminate you
from the screen. 
                           We’re a highly active unit. 
People act like I’m demented
or something, like how could I do that
for a living? 
But I always thought
it wasn’t much different
from any other thing. 
It’s what we do,
and we do it. 

“The camaraderie’s
great. We have a ground team
that works with us
and fighter escorts. 
All of us are pretty close. 

                                           “You know what I hate? 
It’s driving. 
Just too slow. 
I like to go fast. 
Driving is the slowest, worst thing
about living. I was driving
to the airport
with my wife
and two kids
and felt like
I was going crazy.” 




Return to table of contents.