Process of Elimination

Choice by extinction sounded ominous
to Yanks like us — we all remembered the war.
But that was just Herr Schreiff’s personal English.
We were on the same side now, building the thing,
the thing,
the VTOL fighter.
What’s today? There must be
some big dates coming up, historic dates.
He’d say, Cold hands frog heart, and it became a gag
among the engineers: Soft hands wombat heart,
Sweaty hands lawnmower heart.
The docs in this place
want to put in a pacemaker; I said no,
I’m not in this for the long run.

On his birthday Schreiff brought in three bottles of schnapps
and we sat around half pickled trying to do the
do the
debug the navigation. What a fright?
Patty —     Debbie —    Susan called, wanted to know
could she bring me anything. I told her, My old brain.
I used to be smart, you know?
I’m assuming someone
is in charge of the dates, the historic dates.

Schreiff had worked for Heinkel during the war,
on those last-ditch plywood jet fighters
that kept disintegrating in midair
and killing their precious test pilots.
Ah Christ, look at this mess! Where’s the thing,
the thing
to call the nurse? Someone needs to deal
with those important dates, it’s all