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Airplanes II

by Lionel E. Deimel





The planes again o’er fly my backyard deck,

As to and from their ’port they come and go—

Though fewer now than passed this way before,

Yet, still a comfort by their presence there.


They trace a line across the cloudless sky;

Between the trees they follow on their track

That, to the earthbound, cannot be perceived,

But ’tis the yoke of civilizing might.


I don’t often get cute with titles, but perhaps I have here, so my title requires an explanation. This poem is a second take on a subject for which I failed to write a poem based on my original idea. My deck, it seems, is near an approach path for the Pittsburgh International Airport. Before September 11, 2001, the steady parade of airplanes across the sky as I read or wrote on my deck seemed to demand a poem. I did not write one, however, until that parade was interrupted for a time, as civil aviation was shut down in response to the September 11 terror attacks. When the parade—more rarified—returned, it seemed to have a new meaning.

Let me say a word about the message of the poem, as not everyone seems to “get it” on first reading. It is true that the resumption of commerce after a social disruption is reassuring. I learned this lesson as a teenager in New Orleans after Hurricane Betsy—watching tractor-trailers moving down the highway toward the city after the storm passed was a great comfort. Airliners in the sky provide similar solace now, and this is the message of the first verse. The essential idea in the second verse is more subtle. The verse is really more about air traffic control. Airplanes in the sky would be reassuring; their disciplined, regular movement—reflecting the discipline of a well-regulated society—is even more reassuring. (Completed 11/5/2001.)

Be sure also to read my other poems inspired by the atrocities of September 11, “11 September 2001” and “Falling from the Sky,” as well as the essay “What's in a Name?”.

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