Theory of Flight, Circa 1709

             for Bartolomeu de Gusmao

There is something elegant about the early aviator’s
theories of flight—
airships fueled by alchemy
of ether, an element extracted from the atmosphere
fixative of stars in heavens.
Without ether, his flying machine remains earthbound
unable to lift off—

And that is what we all want
to take flight like swallows, a dream so common
it bores our therapists,
but we hunger to outsmart gravity,
to feel our bones empty and hollow,
to record for all time our first instant of levitation.

And understand his madness and hope his hypothesis
ether attracts humans
and inanimate objects to the sun
after amber gathered in glass globes
awakens magnets to elevate his metal plated ship                                                  
will actually pan out.
But then, we look at his drawing from the only surviving manuscript.

His airship seems improbable with bird shaped sails,
contraptions of pulleys and bellows,
its underbelly of giant feathers and garish flags,
and still parts of his theory are credible
as his first experiments flew unmanned through Lisbon.

But wait, he burned his entire opus 
seconds before fleeing soldiers from the Inquisition
for what mortal dares fly and trespass in heaven?
All of us, we are all heretics
imagining ourselves winged and free.

(First Place Winner, Arapahoe Community College Writer’s Studio Literary Contest, 2012)