Massacre at 39,000 Feet

Steve Crow

    "Last night I heard the news
    from Washington, the Capital...
    the Russians escaped while we
    weren't watching them, like
    Russians will. Now we've got
    all this room, we've even got
    the Moon, and I hear the USSR
    will be open soon as vacationland
    for lawyers in love."
      --Jackson Browne
      Lawyers in Love


Months ago, in a nightmare of my
dreams, I saw a jet explode in mid-air
and for days I troubled nervously,
wondering whose aircraft it could be,
refusing to visit the airport like
I always do for the fear of bringing
the vision with me, carrying this
gnawing sensation there was nothing
I could do, telling myself how
foolish my dreams and I must be.


Blue evening, calm winds, Ann Arbor
Airport weeks later near the run-up area
watching an Aero Commander taxi onto Two-Four
or a launch when I look, perplexed, and think
I see the nose gear shimmy as the plane turns
onto the threshold and I flash on my dream
in waves of recognition, helplessness and
stupidity, finally watching the airplane
line up on the numbers, brakes set, throttles
forward, release, accelerate and lift away
in one of those high speed, nose-high
departures as I shudder deep with a fear
of who I am or what I've seen, these
dream machines pulling at the heart in me.


September 1983, massacre
at 39,000 feet, Russian
fighter pilots do not
'identify' an airliner,
civilian transport, world's
largest, 747, 269 souls aboard
eaten by a war world's rocket,
heat seeker, human and debris
inferno as the weapon seeks
pure heat, turns metal, Jet A,
plastic, fabric and flesh
into an instant fireball
falling through terror and
high altitude eternity.
But war does not seek
the heat of the heart, warmth
of the spirit in our souls.
269 dead, dropped in a moment
raining pieces of people
and airplane on waters
of the North Pacific.


I haven't flown in years.
Still, tonight, I don't want
to talk about what it's like
to get into trouble in the air,
bad trouble, with nothing
to hold you for a long way down.
I will tell you the best pilots
fear mid-air collisions and
in-flight fires. Last week,
living their war-alert orders,
Russian fighters lit three
on a match and fused human horrors
in heat and in history and
tonight, it seems so clear,
vivid. Sand Creek, The Trail
Where They Cried, Wounded Knee
or 39,000 feet, people can be
burned and murdered in villages
on Earth or villages and
pathways aloft in the sky.
For the love of life or
the love of weapons, why?

Copyright 1995 Kaleidoscope. Write Place. Volume 6.
Contributors retain all rights to their work.