To the Ninety-Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots, founded 1929
You walked on wings, hung upside
down, flew under bridges in planes
no sturdier than mother’s ironing board.
How did it feel to first rupture the sky?
Hair unbound, bobbed, wind whipping
your powdered faces in open cockpits.
Newspapers loved your lip-sticked smiles,
clocked miles, loops and dashes, dubbed you
Fly Girls as the world tried to swat you down.
Your planes broke midair, broke bones,
bodies, engulfed you in flames,
They should have called you Icarus.
Hurled back to earth again and again,
as if God slapped his palm against you,
proclaimed, “Thou shalt not soar.”
Still you rose. Pushed yourselves
against man and nature. Elinor flew 26 hours,
21 minutes. Florence flipped 1078 loops.
Louise and Blanche tucked the 1936 Bendix
title into purses. History held up only
Amelia’s final failure. Still we rise.
Previously published in The Poet, a U.K.-based journal
Linda McCauley Freeman
Linda McCauley Freeman is the author of the full-length poetry collection The Family Plot (Backroom Window Press, 2022) and has been widely published in international journals, including in a Chinese translation. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize 2022. Recently she was the featured poet in The Poet Magazine, and appeared in Delta Poetry Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, and won Grand Prize in StoriArts’Maya Angelou poetry contest. She received a grant from Arts MidHudson and was selected for Poets Respond to Art 2020, 2021 and 2022 shows. She was a three-time winner in the Talespinners Short Story contest judged by Michael Korda. She has an MFA from Bennington College and is the former poet-in-residence of the Putnam Arts Council. She lives in the Hudson Valley, NY. Visit her website for upcoming events www.LindaMcCauleyFreeman.com and follow her on Twitter@LindaMccFreeman and Facebook@LindaMcCauleyFreeman