Introducing the March 2010 Readers – 2. Aiko Harman

Aiko Harman is a Los Angeles native, living in Scotland where she earned an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. She previously lived in Japan, teaching English to high school students and spending time with her maternal family there. Her poetry is published in Anon, the Edinburgh Review and Fuselit, among others. She was the winner of the 2009 Grierson Verse Prize, and a recipient of the William Hunter Sharpe memorial scholarship in creative writing. More of Aiko’s writing can be found at: http://www.lionandsloth.com

At the Airshow

You park in the gravel, take my hand, and we walk
through the dusted airstrip kicking tumbleweeds,
swatting swarms of gnats drawn to our mouths
in the dry heat. Tossing me onto your back, I duck
under a white tarp sign flapping in the mute breeze:

1990 El Toro Airshow – Home of the Blue Angels

If there are hot dogs, you promise we will have one.
Popcorn, churros, ice-cold lemonade or coke
and overpriced Good Humor ice-cream bars.

Men with thick beards and potbellies bead sweat
under their baseball caps, touch the brassy pins
that adorn their old uniforms and wince into the sky
as dog-fighting jets deafen the packed lot
with the speed of sound.

We wait in line to sit in the cockpit of old bombers
and you lift me up to touch the faded painted lady
on the side of a vintage warbird. You never flew,
you say, you’re Navy, like Grandpa.
But you should have; you blame your bad eyes.

When it’s time, we find a patch of grass to sit in.
You teach me the names of planes scoring the sky,
their dust, a trail of white crosses, cloud busters.

I have since forgotten these names, and with them
the sad dogs heat-spent in the flat grass, the flies
smashed between the pages of our plane guide,
the vets trading pins like memories, the long lines
at the port-o-potty, the slow sleepy walk
back to our truck in the setting sun.

But I remember the Angels, their stealth delta
cutting the air in unison, their careful barrel rolls
and diamonds in the sky, the gasped crowd,
and our linked arms, the years between them,
both covered in goose-bumps during the show.

(originally shortlisted for the Aesthetica magazine Poetry Competition, and published in their 2010 Creative Works Annual)

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