The de Havilland Comets

All through those last flights the cracks spread
like tiny silver zippers. People sat strapped
to the seats and looked out the square windows

across the earth’s sweep. Flights took off.
Flights landed. Flights flew from London
to Rome, from Berlin to Cairo. Shatner’s goon

on the airplane’s wing is fearsome, but imagine
being a passenger on the de Havilland Comet,
looking out the window at the distant cotton clouds

and smoking a Dunhill while mulling the wine list.
I’m bending a paper clip back and forth,
feeling it get warm, and watching the crook

lighten and twist. If ever we wanted engineers
to re-test something thoroughly, it would be
planes, and they thought they had. Hours

of pressurization, shields between the engines
and fuel tanks, reinforced fuel lines, new
smoke detectors. None of it mattered

because no one knew the Comets had exploded
after fractures from rivets started the planes’
skin peeling away as the metal fatigued.

I can’t smooth the paper clip to its pristine
sleekness, and can’t forget the Comets. I push
on them just to the point of breakage, then beyond.

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