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What Brought the Helicopter Down

ISSUE:  Autumn 1999


The pilot flies low
over the field, flies
low and the burnt and bloody
elephant grass bends beneath him.
He sees, briefly, bodies,
sees death in each tree
and bit of bush, but he does his job, he rises
and moves on. Each afternoon he delivers
Lifebuoy soap, warm beer,
and last week’s mail to the men of our country.
Each evening he hauls corpses, tagged and bagged.
No rotor-wind
can cleanse the air that reaches him—he breathes
the heavy air of flesh burned live.
He flies the same route everyday.


I should say right now
that my father was blown up
and saved. He twisted
in elephant grass and mud
for two days. There had been a jeep,
three men, then a sound, then
no jeep at all. No one else
making any sound.
From his helicopter that pilot had seen
hundreds of broken bodies, but somehow
he recognized that, overnight, one body had moved
two meters, had pulled off a bloody boot.
He flew the same route every single day
and the miracle is, he recognized. No miracle
brought that helicopter down, though,
picked up my dad, gave him his life back.
What brought the helicopter down
was a man with a heart like yours.


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