A porter found him in the Pullman car,
A few weeks old, dressed like a rich man's child.
The orphanage named him Thomas, for Aquinas.
The parents who adopted him were Czech,
New immigrants, the promise of the new
Betrayed by the Depression, the greying city
Idle, but for Feller on the mound
And Fred and Ginger's pastorals on the screen.
At school he read his namesake, then, in the Air Force,
As if a revelation sent to him,
His lineage and his birthright. Their starry son,
Trying untried elations of the skies
Above the green earth's curve, his silver wing
Climbing and spinning through undarkened day,
He grasped the golden bowl and drank the wine,
His pride and joy like Hermes' beauty, wings
Dancing with every debutante, a feast
Of arms for boys and girls, where no death is.
The destiny that holds the hero's life
Appeared to him above the clouds of France
In combat, on the field of dread. Messerschmitts
Everywhere in pursuit of his pursuit,
He never reported sick or turned away
Suddenly over the Channel, for a year,
Till over Frankfurt screaming from its pyre,
Engine aflame, then cockpit, he bailed out,
The parachute his spirit in the dark.
Burnt air, burnt earth, burnt time! An angry mob
Mistook him for another bomber pilot
And hanged him from a tree, near Goethe's house.
Source: Collected Poems