“The Mosquito and the Bell Jar” by Carol Motta

Our balsa-sweet Mosquito flies low and slow
into the burning sun, undetectable by radar
I hear only air scratching past the belly of the hold
No bomb today, just a tired man laying on
his backside, rucksack scrunched under neck
Hard as Hell. I’m going home.
     Struts are clean and waxy, no flecks of red.
Lofting in this vacuum, hearing air rush
Past the plywood struts of the bomb cradle
      I’m going home, going home, after two years
      as a mole in the red dirt of Sweden.
      Laughing, suspended in a bell jar
      bell jar tilting, flash!
             Cradle shatters, take me home.
      A flash of antiaircraft metal shatters balsa cradle,
      my bell jar tilts wildly between earth and ashen sky
      breaking the vacuum that contained me.
      Charred struts fly off, bent as boomerangs
      never to return to the land that sculpted them.
      On fire, the pilot, co-pilot and I float into the white sky.
            Oh rock me asleep, blissful sleep
      Blissful sleep. Below an October Europe
      bleeds mulberry, sienna, and piney green.
      I’m evaporated. I laugh into the soundless whiteness.
      On earth Time makes squeaks and ticks but
      in this whiteness Time is dead.
      Ashes make no sound, tell no history
            No more vacuum, no more me.
      A Highlander pub owner, scuffing
      through the purple heaths of Dundee
      salvaged what tipped out of the bell jar:
      a glass flange, thick and unbroken
            a child’s fringed Swedish scarf,
                  a folded love letter,
                        a torn Kodak of two girls and a baby boy
                               a rumpled trench coat

Carol Motta is the author of many publications, including poetry, literary criticism, essays on modernism, profiles of artists, and two yet-to-be-published novels On the Roof and A Mound of Butter. Her midlife career was dedicated to music performance – composition and conducting. She was awarded a Fulbright in Spain to study Spanish Baroque opera. She taught music and literature at U.C. Berkeley and at Penn State University. In retirement from the stage, teaching and raising five children, she has circled back to her first love, poetry, poems that give voice to the human artistic experience.

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