When he washed out as a pilot at Sheppard Field
They made him a PFC and sent him on to Tucson
As a CNT operator
Teaching a procession of new cadets how to navigate
By shooting the stars from a mock fuselage
Suspended inside a forty-foot tower
So that for the rest of the war he never
Had to fly outdoors, never come in
Low over Ploesti, or contend
With the flak or the fighters, "a very great
Piece of luck for me," Jarrell said 
To his friend Tate, but he felt cheated
All the same, lusting for some nightmares 
To call his own, even if
He had to stitch them together with lies
About death and grieving wives and burned cities
That asked him Why, but that was okay too,
Where was the harm, it got him a  post
At the Woman's College, didn't it?  And who better
To show those penny-loafer girls the Pleiades than he?
But years later, as the leather and the fur
In his make-believe dreams
Took on the patina of mothballed B-l7's
His hands began to tremble and he would 
Grab hold of the lectern, white-knuckled and afraid,
Feeling the cables snap loose everywhere
As he stared helplessly
At the hydraulic fluid spilling from the lines
And the prop running haywire
With no way to feather it and the 109's 
Coming at him again and again
Over Stuttgart
Over Schweinfurt
Over the Hand House in Chapel Hill
Until he heard himself screaming
From far away
And went whirling through the bomb bay in his dark
Wools and his dark gloves, no one left
To tell it to but a legless aviator
From another crew, outfitted with a pair
Of brand new wings and waving
His diploma with a sheepish grin, 
While deep within the celestial tower
In a room as cold as the cirrus that hid the Jerries
An assistant ME stripped off the old cadet's clothes
And got ready to wash him out again
With a hose

James Lineberger