Only a handful made it to the United States,
some as far as Detroit.
One killed a Sunday school teacher
walking students through the Oregon woods.
However many became rumor,
stuck on power lines near missile silos,
cut into tarps by farmers or chased across the desert
with rifles and pickups,
only seen or heard after the fact
of arrival turned cloud to bulb and flame,
morning and empty field,
it seemed unjust they might keep
the silence of clear skies in their ballast,
burning primitive three-day fuses
sparked by altimeters
if the fuses lit. One capped the snow
while the grass surrounding it grew high stalks.
From the lot where he packed lunches and a tackle box
Pastor Mitchell heard a student yell to his wife,
“Look what I found,”
the newspapers reported.
He tried to smother the fire on her body.
He followed, fifteen years, the vanishing canopy
and died in a jungle carrying medicine to enemy soldiers.
At the end of the war kamikaze pilots
painted cherry blossoms on their payload.
They took branches from the trees into their cockpits
to deliver the reincarnated souls
of friends and strangers.
Thousands of men “bloomed as flowers of death,”
as high clouds shading the rocky ground
break into pieces and vanish.

John W. Evans‘ poetry has appeared in Slate, The Missouri Review, Poetry Daily, Boston Review, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry Northwest, Epoch, and elsewhere. He is the author of the chapbooks, No Season (FWQ, 2011) and Zugzwang (RockSaw, 2009). Evans is a Jones Lecturer in poetry at Stanford University, where he was previously a Stegner Fellow.