May 30, 2023


Marcus Lines, MD

I wrote this poem in memory of my father who passed away in 2021. He was a career military fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, a true American hero and recipient of multiple service medals including the Silver Star.

Have you ever seen the silver birds with their long, white tails in the sky
And tried to figure out what contrails are, begin to wonder why?

Have you wondered where they come from, floating high in heavens blue?
I’ve often thought about them, how I wish I knew.

Some say they come from vapors, ice crystals or condensation.
But now I finally know, after much contemplation.

I think they represent the flyers, those past and yet to come.
The ones who answered a nation’s call, left mothers, daughters, sons.

Their country asked much of them, their missions led to battle.
Some lost their lives but won the war, I hear their sabers rattle.

Contrails, some are short and narrow, flyboys lost too young, too early.
Others wider, longer still, having cheated death but barely.

It was only a few days ago when I saw one that I knew.
It went from east to west, looked strong and tall and true.

The beginning was so clear to me, a young boy became a flyer,
With wingmen that would come and go, to protect the sleeping tiger.

The trail began to fade as it neared the far horizon.
It branched from one into three and I know the reason.

Three little boys he showed the way, turned finally into men.
And when you wonder where’s he gone, just look … he’ll be in them.

So all the contrails in the sky are someone else’s story,
Of protecting us, our home … the flag we call “Old Glory.”

And if you see a flying machine with no contrail you can see,
It’s a story not yet written, or not meant for you or me.

But when you see the silver bird with its long white tail up high,
Remember the task is to figure out … who and not why …