Friday, June 24, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Fighter Pilot

I missed posting this for Father's Day because I was lollygagging at Isle of Palms in South Carolina with most of my husband's family---a lovely, relaxing launch to summer.

 But why not celebrate dads a week longer?

Here's me, with my dad, taken at his med school graduation:

We share a love of books, bad puns, lifelong learning, and outdoor adventure. Because he was a surgeon, I didn't get to observe his work, but I knew he could be called in at any hour to operate on someone who desperately needed his skill.  He could also be counted upon for elaborate practical jokes---including one that involved a fake radio broadcast of an alien invasion at the nearby Tyson-McGee Airport. He bakes bread from scratch, recently enjoyed discovering The Phantom Tollbooth (great puns there), and has been married fifty years to my mom.

And here's my daughter, Rebecca, with her dad:

Rebecca in her "meeting" dress with her daddy
(First deployment to Iraq)
Rebecca's grandmother made that dress specifically for her to wear to greet her daddy. Later, she would learn a new father appreciation song---and drive us nearly insane singing "You're a Grand Old Dad" over and over during a cross-country move. Most recently, the two of them handled an epic move to grad school together, complete with cat and U-Haul and towed car trailer.

The references in her poem may not be clear to those who didn't grow up as a fighter pilot's daughter. But that's the beauty of father-daughter bonds---they are story written together.

The Fighter Pilot
by Rebecca Holmes

The throttle, the pressure suit, the callsign,
the rubber sleeves, the formation. The story
about being hit by lightning. Saturdays at the squadron
and urgent missions: rows of fake switches

in the simulator to flip all on, all off, and test flights
on the bench-press. The bar songs with the dirty parts
revised, the crud table, the afterburners,
the sortie, the tower, the roofstomp:

lexicon of all the nomad people who must
have left these rituals for us, although
scattered in pieces between Alabama, Virginia,
Rhode Island, Mississippi. The burning piano,

solemn prank and memorial for some long-dead
R. A. F. aviator, repeated here for the unspoken
name and for what might happen. The one about
the dead lizard in the Philippines. The broken nose.

The war stories, the sand, the contractors on the farm
where he grew up, building a silo, who didn’t
need advice and called him college boy. Always
the catfish meunière on the first night home

from the desert. He said the ice cream in the cafeteria
wasn’t bad at all. When I was a baby in Japan,
my feet never touched the ground until the box
of Tennessee dirt from my grandmother arrived,

until the proper ceremony, the flag, all the men
in dress blues filling the little house. Never
the slightest doubt about any tale in this canon.
I have seen the movies. I know fighter pilots

are all supposed to have a tragic flaw and someone
dies before the end. It wasn’t like that, but in August
on bike-rides we would peel out from the driveway
in formation. And at bedtime the trundle bed

was a runway: procedure was observed, the tower
notified, landing gear extended, instruments checked, and I
had to call the ball, Rebecca. It was better than any
cinema dogfight. We never needed enemies or flames.

                                        ----Rebecca M. Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Carol's Corner.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What I'm Reading Now: The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

Made me laugh? Yup.

Made me cry? Yup.

Made me want to use the words "Judy Blume" in this review? Yup.

Sixth-grader Lucy Wu is obsessed with basketball and hopes to play for legendary UT Lady Vols coach Pat Summit one day. But that's a long ways off. For now, she's short, being forced to go to Chinese school, and in an extended battle with mean girl Sloane---who puts crickets in Lucy's lemon chicken. To top it off, she has to share her bedroom with her non-English speaking, Vapor Rub odor-emitting, suddenly visiting great-aunt, Yi Po.

This novel is about walls: at first, the one Lucy erects in her bedroom to keep her great-aunt at arm's length. But later, there's the one in Lucy's school bathroom scrawled with a mocking poem about Chinese people; the walls between Lucy and her basketball dreams; and most of all, the walls inside that we all use to keep other people out...

What I loved most about this book---and what caused me to invoke the name of Judy Blume---is how debut author Wendy Shang keeps Lucy firmly grounded in her family, but gives us complete access to her inner life. Here is Lucy explaining what sharing a room with her great-aunt is like:

"Yi Po woke up every day before the sun even peeped out. And did she tiptoe out quietly? Not without making the bed! I lay in bed and listened to her every morning, walking around in her flat slippers that made a fwap-fwap sound with every step. I soon noticed that she had a little pattern every morning. Whoosh fwap-fwap. She pulled up the blankets. Swish fwap-fwap. She smoothed the bed. Poom fwap-fwap. She puffed up the pillow.
By the time she fwap-fwapped out of the room, I was too fwapping mad to go back to sleep."

No walls there.

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Poetry Friday: Morning by Billy Collins

Billy Collins is on to me. He knows I'm a morning person---and even more so in summer when I can wake as early as I like and still be greeted by sunlight.


Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—

read the rest here

Poetry Friday is hosted today at The Writer's Armchair.