By | 1 March 2018

It is unclear how many people died on the ground.
-Agence France Presse, July 01, 2015

We have heard of such news before:
a 51-year-old Hercules crashing after take-off,
from a Sumatra air force base into a massage parlor.
The plane had burst into a fireball in free fall
and crushed buildings in Medan, flames surging up
several stories, smoke sealing off fire escapes.
Out of the wreckage jutted the plane’s gnarled tail.
Fire trucks wailed, wailed for burning bodies.
Water gushed through the chaos of ambulance sirens.
On board the plane were military personnel,
their families, and (is it true?) civilians
who had paid a million rupiah each for a seat.
About a hundred forty perished, including a schoolboy.
Perhaps the boy’s teacher, mulling his absence,
would picture him in his uniform as she faced
the whiteboard, erasing the day’s lesson
while the school let the bell tear the air
at dismissal time; and his classmates,
saying his nickname over and over, would recount
to their parents what he had been like
and where his chair was in the classroom. Was it
by the window with a bird’s eye view of neighboring islands?
Before all these happened a tired client in the parlor
might have slumped on a bed that would soon catch fire,
his trousers hanging on a nail, his reversible belt
clinking its buckle against the wall from time to time
as fan blades overhead circled counter-clockwise with a drone.
Baby oil lavished on his back could have lulled the man to sleep
so soundly he did not hear the explosions or, stunned by blasts,
could have turned deaf, lost in thought: was there
anything that could be done or undone?
This was a future we already knew: we had seen it
like a blind masseur before this Hercules became a ball of fire,
who, having plotted the day ahead, would think
he could grasp the next hours in his head
as he fingered the hands of his watch.

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