April 30, 2016
First Flight

—Shari Wagner
Posted in celebration of National Poetry Month

Richmond, Indiana, June 1884

It quivered in the roll and turn
as Orville banked a curve,
spun from his hubs
downhill to the river.

And a dream caught
in Will’s spokes, too, as he pedaled
to the rear, reading the cursive
of turkey buzzards, how they’d

coast with wings extended,
feather-tips twisted to balance on air.
Something tugged them both
away from their mother,

wasted balsa wood thin, delicate
as the kite frames
she helped them build.
Their pockets packed

with pennies and love notes,
the ballast of loss,
they raced what snapped
at their heels—tomorrow’s move

to Ohio.  Under cirrus clouds,
dirt roads flew beneath them,
spokes twirled like a whirligig’s
blades, like a flyer’s spruce propellers

to lift them to the sky.


—Shari Wagner (Hamilton County)

This poem is from The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana (Bottom Dog Press, 2013) and first appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review.

April 30, Shari Wagner, photo

Shari Wagner is Indiana Poet Laureate and the author of two poetry books, Evening Chore and The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana. She teaches poetry and memoir writing for the Indiana Writers Center and literature for Butler University’s Religion, Spirituality & the Arts Seminar. Her poems have appeared in The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, North American Review, Poetry East, and Shenandoah.  Visit her laureate website at www.throughthesycamores.com.

Poetry Prompt: A Moment from Indiana History
Imagine some moment from Indiana history.  It could be a moment that’s been lost to time—like what occurred the day before the Wright family moved from Indiana to Ohio. Visit the place where this moment occurred—or might have occurred. How does the scene you imagine link to past and future events? Use strong verbs and specific details to make the moment seem real.

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.

Posted In: Poetry

2 responses to “First Flight”

  1. Thomas Alan Orr says:

    Really nice, Shari! I appreciate the way the language conveys a sense of lightness and airiness.

  2. Tracy Mishkin says:

    I love this poem–and what you told the audience about the Wright Bros. mother’s engineering skills at a reading I attended.

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