James A. Mattern, noted flier, was granted permission by the Commerce Department today to make an aerial search for the Russian aviators believed lost in the Arctic wilderness.
In making the search, Mr. Mattern will be returning a favor from Sigismund Levanevsky, leader of the Russian flight.
The Russian went to Mr. Mattern’s rescue a few years ago when the American aviator was marooned in Northern Siberia.
From Weeks Field the sun hangs uncertain,
the air sharpened by the curse of razored winds –
sheets of sky and sea layered silver with ice.
Each hour vanishes into broken distances,
the shape of the world formed on each breath, oiled drops
shivering wet off rivets – the engine
moaning dark at the wrists.
Evening swivels west as the Texan turns,
her wings banked shallow above the ocean’s crust –
pedals and levers at their place for altitude.
Through angled glass, the quiet world of a frozen
solitude, a vast naked bridge of bruised light bridging continents,
white skirts of blind speed beaming
over lengths of desolate prose.
The radio crackles white with endless noise,
the ceiling of the world dry with fate.
And banking into the failing light, he remembers the furled
wisps sparked by whips of air turning up as the Russian landed –
then, the rattled chop of blades as the plane left for Nome,
the compass marked for home and all
the vaporous qualities of life.
Time sinks fast, darkening with ancient layers
creaking below, unsaid prayers the dead
have set to verse. A grey breath of air slips heavily
off each wing, the flat drone of the engine working
the mind to paint the final flight with a grieved art – the soul’s white feathers
burning bright as the prototype rolled and crashed
deep into the heart of the unknown.