Rita Dove

The Zeppelin Factory

The zeppelin factory
needed workers, all right —
but, standing in the cage
of the whale's belly, sparks
flying off the joints
and noise thundering,
Thomas wanted to sit
right down and cry.

That spring the third
largest airship was dubbed
the biggest joke
in town, though they all
turned out for the launch.
Wind caught,
"The Akron" floated
out of control,

three men in tow —
one dropped
to safety, one
hung on but the third,
muscles and adrenalin
failing, fell
six hundred feet.

Thomas at night
in the vacant lot:
        Here I am, intact
        and faint-hearted.

Thomas hiding
his heart with his hat
at the football game, eyeing
the Goodyear blimp overhead:
        Big boy I know
        you're in there.