When Da Vinci made his drawings in Milan—
took up his black chalk to spin circles
around his aerial-screw—did he have my father
in mind? Five-hundred years later, barely
lifted up and away from the Mekong Delta
hot zone, two bullets in his thigh, clutching
the metal skids with bare hands, body
hanging over paddy fields and swamplands
for the seven hour flight to safety.
And my father?
Was his focus on slipping—or not slipping—
the scream in his knuckles, his leg,
the men left behind? On my mother,
the bank teller in Mendocino? Did he meditate
on the sugar-cane groves below, the cloudy
explosions, or the skein of waterways and canals?
Perhaps he thought simply of old man Da Vinci
(who knew how to build bombardments and cannons,
catapults and other war machines) sketching
the muscles of his Vitruvian man, trying to pin
down exactly where the human soul resides.
Though more than likely, my father managed
to hold tight just long enough by chanting over
whirly-bird, whirly-bird, whirly-bird.