Colonel Lindbergh Returns, 1948
Crossing the dark ocean toward Tokyo
He radioed ahead to say he could see the stars
And the morning papers printed the headline
The Lone Eagle Lands. Clouds thickening
Toward noon made him call in again
And improvise an early landing in the countryside,
On a thin strip of red dust bracketed by rows
Of maple trees: their plumes of bright red leaves
Looked to him as he made his descent
Like explosions slowly spreading their blossom,
Though he did not think of the last time,
During the war, he flew this low over Japan.
The new Minister of Information sped out
From Tokyo in a tan Mercedes convertible
And the villagers in linen shirts hoisted up
A bamboo pole with the stars and stripes upside-down.
And now Lucky Lindy pulls himself out
Of the cockpit, gloves tucked into a jacket pocket.
The cheers roll up to him from the flock of peasants
Shoving in to touch the riveted steel. He knows
There will be businessmen in tight black suits
And barons murmuring occident and industry,
Though he has no idea he will be seated
On a wicker throne, its painted back fanning out
Like a peacock’s display. He is so thirsty.
But as he is crossing the dust to the Minister
Who waits by the car with hands locked
Behind his back, the massive sweating crowd
Pressing against Lindbergh is yelling Banzai,
Banzai and because he doesn’t know
They mean Ten thousand years, May you live
Ten thousand years, he does not think
Of landing in Berlin before the war,
The Nazi rally that met him with cheers,
The flags lining the streets, everyone bragging
The Reich would rule one-tenth as long.
And he believed them: he had toured
Their hangars packed with orderly rows
Of Messerschmitts, endless gardens
Of white propellers still as daisy petals.
Instead, he hears the crowd yelling Bonsai,
Bonsai and so he thinks of Connecticut,
The smooth grey stones, the small trees
In his garden, their delicate limbs he loves
Cutting back with his miniature saw,
Pruning their leaves with his precise scissors,
Making the whole more beautiful by the loss.
And as he reaches behind the Minister’s back
To grasp his hand in friendship, smiling,
He is seeing the trees’ branches sculpted
Through careful breeding and skill,
How their noble, disciplined shapes
Do not so much as tremble in the wind.