January 16, 1967: 5:30 P.M.

so that you will know where the sun was
     . Too cold to look up but going downhill
home, I saw the pink contrail, so high

it began the length of my thumb behind
     the silver nail, going somewhere northwest,
just going, like one of the kids running down the street

streaming long crepe paper behind just to keep
     it in the air. “Beautiful,” I said,
committing myself, thinking about the

cold up there surrounding the pilot
     in the cockpit, comforted by warm
instruments and dialfaces. Then, more than

I could bear, another, coming from where
     the first was going, their flight patterns
giving them all the margin of safety

from fingertip to elbow they passed––
     the ductile, malleable cold making
pink parallel bars that showed how pilots

go from where to when, and why horizons
     lose their distance between the points of going.
Forced into a judgment this time, I saw

that it was good and let them go wherever
     they were going, let the sun go down,
and turned the corner home to my own warm faces, and rested.

From From a Person Sitting in Darkness: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1998) by Gerald Barrax. Copyright © 1998 by Gerald Barrax. Used with the permission of Louisiana State University Press.