They climb a slender ladder. From
stitched-together metal, my
daughters disappear into the plane, a mother’s
intuition wanting them to sleep
longer in their not knowing. I
want to conceal how people fell
from the sky, how bombs glided into
their targets, how it happened in the
daylight, so everything hit. This State,

the state of being and of war. And
when they go further into the fortress, I
can no longer hear their hunched
tunneling. No oxygen masks needed in
this controlled air museum, its
planes are still. We are in the belly
of the third hanger, learning till
we are sick with statistics, my
eyes want to look away, wet
with sadness, with the soft fur
of faces that burned or froze.

My girls sit in the jump seats. Six
feet from ground, not miles
like the eight to ten men from
the past who flew this earth
in these planes, men loosed
into war, one man who crawled from
somewhere in this turret, from its
curved surface, with the dream
of getting home, with the want of
oxygen, and warmth and life,

someone’s son, someone’s, I
know this from Jarrell, how a man woke
into death. How am I to
explain these images of black
smoke trailing, or the definition of flak
or anti-anything? My girls and
their enthusiastic guide pause at the
plane’s plexiglass womb, its nightmare
nested only the smallest fighters.

A single man curled knee to chin. When
my children emerge intact, I
hear the guide state how many died
but later, the girls tell me they
loved the plane, over washed
hair and brushed teeth, tell me
how some men were thrown out
because of their wounds, of
how their friends deployed the
parachutes, about the turret
and its smallness, tell me with
smiles, still unaware of what remains, a
poem, a person, a mess, a hose.

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ALEXANDRA UMLAS is the author of the full-length poetry collection At the Table of the Unknown (Moon Tide Press). You can find her work in Rattle, Poetry Super Highway, The Rise Up Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, and Cultural Weekly, among others. She serves as a reader for Palette Poetry and on the board of directors of Tebot Bach, a non-profit literary organization. Recently, she graduated from the M.F.A. Poetry program at California State University, Long Beach. Before becoming a poet, Alex taught middle school and high school English, earning an M.Ed. in Cross-cultural Education. Born and raised in Long Beach, CA, she currently lives in Huntington Beach, CA with her husband and two daughters.

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