Operation Babylift by Tiana Nobile

“We bucket-brigade-loaded the children right up the stairs into the airplane.”
– Col. Bud Traynor, pilot

April 4, 1975

Skin still wet with mother’s
grief. I brought my baby
to them, I admit it.

Airlift Takes Off

Tucked in cardboard and stowed
two to each seat.

At 23,000 Feet Systems Fail

In the event of being born
in a country ravaged by war –


I heard rumors that mixed babies 
would be burned alive, retaliation
for consorting with the enemy.

Split Cables

Save – Rescue – Liberate


I asked about the papers. How
will I find her? How will we reunite
in America?

Skids in Rice Paddy

In the event their skin is soaked in gasoline –


Those who didn’t fit would make the trip
in the cargo area.

Crosses Saigon River

Under the circumstances,
the evacuation became necessary –

Thrashes Trench

The promise of reunion
too appealing to pass up.

Fractures in Four

Jam-packed flock, throng of new bones.

Fuel Ignites

It was no longer a choice.

Fifty Adults

The only option.

& Seventy-Eight Children

Click here for PDF version.

Contributor Notes

Tiana Nobile is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Kundiman fellow, and a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award. A finalist of the National Poetry Series and Kundiman Poetry Prize, she is the author of the chapbook, The Spirit of the Staircase (2017). Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The New Republic, Guernica, and the Texas Review, among others. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more, visit www.tiananobile.com