First Solo

I see her thumbs-up sign
go down to take the throttle.
She turns away, chin up
and urgent, flesh I have held
in these two hands.Until now,
I could have saved her.

Rolling, the Cessna gathers
faster down the runway, leans back nose-up
and lifts.Light shimmers between her
and the earth.The wings bounce
through bumpy air.I feel my spine like hers
slam down into the seat.

Was it enough, what I gave her,
the dual hours, the time in bed
rehearsing with our hands,
the emergency steps we drilled together?
If something should ever happen to me,
I said, be able to land,

then worry about a doctor.
And she was willing,
bouncing her first dual landing,
ballooning to fifty feet and stalling
before she eased it down.
She banks, now, gear down,

falling in a turn
toward final.Nothing I can do
on this hot day but curse the pheasants
nesting in fields north of the runway
and pray they have grain enough
to stay clear of traffic.

Bring the nose down, down,
don't reach, believe the glide
will hold you, the nose rise in the flare--
There! her wheels touch, lovely,
and faster and faster, she's off again
into the sun, the wild blue.

by Walt McDonald

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