THE FLIGHTLESS CONDOR


Back about nineteen fifty-one, I found
An abandoned farmhouse, three hardbound

Books 1, 2 and 4 of The Boy Mechanic
Well-worn and tossed in a bedroom or an attic,

I took them home and many times wondered
At the marvelous things those pages covered --

Thousands of things for boys to do --
Magic tricks to confound your elders too,

All were gifts from someone's Grandmother
At Christmastime, to one boy or another,

The only problem obtaining parts aplenty
Was interpreting the lists, from the early twenties,

I often wondered, and it puzzled me
Why I didn't have a copy of the missing Book 3,

My good friend Jay saw the books and paging through
Wondered what the biplane glider would do,

He set his sights on building one that day
And for custom-made wood he sent away,

When the frame and the ribs were assembled on the thing,
He tried to find some fabric to cover the wings,

Made the first of his errors choosing cheesecloth skin,
That porous material wouldn't hold the wind,

It should have been cambric, muslin or tightly
Woven material, even bed sheets, nightly

Used in his parents' place might have brought it back,
The second mistake was spraying with shellac,

It still was as porous as it could be
And wouldn't hold the wind, you see,

20/20 hindsight makes us feel wise,
We see the third mistake, using copper for the guys,

Cambric or muslin, piano wire guys,
Painted with shellac -- might have made it fly,

It couldn't get lift or even stay straight,
The sagging of the wings just wouldn't abate,

We now know that copper stretches with ease,
And porous cheesecloth won't hold the breeze,

The final result was the bird that never flew,
I felt sorry for Jay, he knew what he had to do,

Self-immolation? Not a thing that he would know,
So he touched it off, and watched it go,

All that work, and to a bitter end,
He should have had a picture to show to his friends,

I sensed a lump in his throat that day
When the Flightless Condor went its way,

In my brother's bookstore, in ninety-six, I found
The Boy Mechanic, Book 3 and neatly bound,

Since I now have all four books of the series I feel better,
That the Condor never flew doesn't really seem to matter.

                                                        by D. Edgar Murray