Dolores Hayden

 

Daredevil

 

William Hickman Pickens, promoter 

 

Demon of the Ground vs. Daredevil of the Air

plays at racetracks in thirty cities:

Oldfield drives a fast car, 

Linc Beachey hovers just above him. 

Bookmakers will take your bet, 

 

and they’ll lay odds 

on the day any pilot 

heads for hell on a shutter.   

I get a cut of everything,  

and men will bet on anything,  

 

they smell hot castor oil 

when mechanics prime the motors, 

they salivate 

for the stink 

of a scorched fuselage.

 

Linc sees me park an ambulance 

next to the grandstand 

and burn wreckage on the spot.

Three times he decides to retire—

my lollapalooza earner 

 

wants to play with his money, 

beat the market.

Three times I whisper, hell, 

man, daredevils never quit. 

He mounts the cockpit wearing 

 

a pin-striped suit, a necktie 

with a diamond stickpin, 

and a peaked cap he turns 

backwards to improve the

airflow, signal the start.

 

 

 

Postures

 

Lincoln Beachey 

 

Wilbur designed a hip cradle. Prone,

he warped the wings of his glider,

moving his hips, he made love to the air.

 

I’d rather make love to a woman.

 

Glenn sold motors. Prone on a motorcycle 

at one hundred thirty-six miles an hour, 

he claimed it satisfied his speed-craving.

 

I’d rather make love to a woman.

 

These days Wilbur and Orville weave nests 

of wood and cloth and wire  

where the bird man sits next to the engine, 

 

Glenn leaves the bird man way out in front, exposed. 

Wilbur, Orville, and Glenn can’t agree 

on anything except—

 

I am the greatest bird anyone has ever seen.

 

I wear the plane. 

 

Tell me roll, 

tell me dive,

tell me breathe, 

tell me high,

 

I steer with hands or knees, 

I am first, fastest, highest, farthest.

 

I’m ordering a new machine

with an aluminum skin, 

B E A C H E Y across the wings.

 

Glenn doubts the strength of the alloy,

he’s been saying things like that for years. 

 

 

 
Loop After Loop

 

William Hickman Pickens 

 

San Francisco is black with coats and hats, 

fairgoers crowd grandstands, lean 

from open windows, perch 

on roofs, tip their faces up. Linc

taxis out from the Palace of Machinery,

 

takes off to applause, lands 

to ovations, performs 

the Twentieth Century for them. 

Jumping rope, children chant,

Lincoln Beachey lives for his dream,

 

heading up to heaven 

in a flying machine…

Today he’s getting a medal—but 

the medal is not here yet,

could he go up one more time?

 

He heads out above the bay, spins

through loop after loop, circles 

up, loops again, dives.

Halfway down 

his right wing 

 

shears off. 

And—

his left.

Faster than hell can scorch a feather,

I lose my star.

 

 
 
 

THE COURTSHIP OF WINDS

© 2015 by William Ray