1909
Lights appear in the sky

Say, it’s that machine

Isn’t it?

Tillinghast Machine

It all begins

December
With Mr. Wallace E. Tillinghast

Vice-President
Sure Seal Manufacturing Company

Worcester, Massachusetts

Curled mustache

Dark hair smooth

And slicked back

Shiny from Brybream

Black suit
White waistcoat
Dotted necktie

Hamburg hat

Puffs his briar pipe

Man of eminence

And reputation

Holder of several patents

Tells the Boston Herald

That he has invented,
Tested and built

A heavier-than-air aeroplane

Capable of carrying
3 passengers

With a weight limit
Of 600 pounds

A distance of 300 miles
Without stop

To replenish supply of gasoline

Could travel at unheard of speed
Of 120 miles per hour

Lights appear in the sky

What? People say

What?

Tillinghast Machine

Nothing can fly like that

The news
All over the world

All over the world

There’s no such thing
As moving lights

That are not meteors

Almost all known airplanes

Are tiny open biplanes

The Tillinghast Machine

Weighs 1550 pounds

Wingspan of 72 feet

Can take off
In a small area

Of about 75 feet

120 horse power engine
Of special construction

Two giant feelers

Like an insect’s antennae
Each side of the machine

35 feet long

At the end of each one
Is a box kite

No matter how the wind blows
The kites right themselves

And the machine

To which they are attached

Could travel at unheard of speeds
Of up to 120 miles per hour

Puffs his briar pipe

Lights appear in the sky

Scientists:
No man can travel faster

Than 60 miles per hour

Without suffering
Tremendous pressures

And brain damage

Show it to us
Let us the see this machine

No matter how the wind blows
The kites right themselves

A craft of that size

Could hardly take off
In the space of 25 yards

This is far beyond
The capabilities of any known craft

Only in 1903
The Wright Brothers

Succeed in flying
First heavier-than-air plane

July 1909
Louis Bleriot

First to fly
Across the English Channel

45 miles per hour
Altitude of 250 feet

10 knot wind

Only 21 miles across

Say, it’s that machine
Isn’t it?

Tillinghast Machine

Wilbur Wright himself
 

Too palpably absurd
From the first to take seriously

News all over the world

All over the world

Man of eminence
And reputation

Puffs his briar pipe

Flies secretly at night

There’s no such thing
As moving lights

That are not meteors

Show it to us
Let us see this machine

Wallace E. Tillinghast

Tells of Flight
300 Miles in Air

Front page headlines

One of more than 100
Secret night flights

Boasts that in September

He and two mechanics
Flew this so-called airship

Of the monoplane type

From Worcester
To New York City
 

Circled the Statue of Liberty
3 times

And back again

By way of Boston

At one point

Near Fire Island

Off the coast of Long Island

One of the cylinders
Of the flier

Runs irregularly

Engine shut off

Contraption glides
For 46 miles

4000 feet high

While the repairs
Are being made

Engine starts again

Over 100 successful trips

18 of which
In his perfected machine

Puffs his briar pipe

Flies secretly at night

No matter how the wind blows
The kites right themselves

A member of life saving patrol
On the beach

Comes forward

So that is what I saw

That is what I saw

Says he heard

The whirr of an engine

Lights appear in the sky

The Boston Globe
Publishes a letter

From a Cyrus Herrick

Stating that a
Double meteor

He had sighted
Previous August

Must in reality

Be the Tillinghast Machine

Only the great speed
Of the lights

Marred our belief
That it was an aircraft

Begins to question
His meteor theory

When he hears
The next day

That two other vacationers
Have seen the lights

Travelling in the opposite direction

But he does not
Abandon the idea

Until the news
From Worcester

About that machine

What a refreshing possible
Hypothesis

On the strange sight
We saw that night

Several Connecticut residents
Tell a reporter

From Hartford Daily Times

One night
Early September

Spotted unusual aerial object

A very powerful beam of light

Moving across the southern sky

In light of recent events

Must be Tillinghast Machine

Must be

What? People say

What?

Nothing can fly like that

There’s no such thing
As moving lights

That are not meteors

It’s a whisper
A canticle from the sky

Puffs his briar pipe

Flies secretly at night

The news
All over the world

All over the world

1 am
December 20th

People around the harbor
Of Boston, Massachusetts

See a bright light

Passing over

A cylindrical shaft
Of light

Arising from the southern horizon

Stretched over the firmament

Immigration Inspector How

Comes to the conclusion

That it must be
Tillinghast Machine

Must be

The next light

1:15 am
Residents of Pawtucket, Rhode Island

See 2 red lights

Proceed southward

All are able
To make out the outline

Of a flying machine

Against the stars

A flying machine

Brilliant light reported
Passing over Marlboro, Massachusetts

The light
At a height so great

To make impossible

A view of its support

In the direction
Of Westborough

And Worcester

It’s a whisper
A canticle from the sky

What? People say

What?

Traced from
North Grafton

Not far from Worcester

Through Grafton,
Hopedale, Milford

After being lost sight of

Reappears in Natick

Direction of Boston

Positive it
Was a searchlight
 

Lights appear in the sky

SKYSHIP OF MYSTERY
FLIES ABOVE BOSTON

MAN AGAIN ABSENT
FROM HOME ALL EVENING

Nothing can fly like that

No matter how the wind blows
The kites right themselves

Reporter Thomas Mueller

Of The Worcester Telegram and Gazette

Wearing a lounge coat

Slender
Fine mustache

At home
With his son and daughter

Blowing smoke rings
With his Pall Mall

Son 5 years old

Sailor suit
With knickerbockers

Plays with his
Model T Ford diecast car

Daughter 9 years old
Red curlets

Blue knee length dress
Lace trimmings

Reads aloud from

Life and Adventures
Of Santa Claus

By L. Frank Baum

Santa as a baby

Found in the Forest
Of Burzee

By Ak the Master Woodsman

Whether it be rich
Or poor

A child’s longing
For pretty playthings

Are but natural

I think friend Claus
It is your duty

To make little ones glad

-Oh Daddy
-I want Crayola Crayons for Christmas
-Gold Medal school crayons

-Will you and mummy
-Get them for me?

     – Will you Daddy?

     – I want a teddy bear

The phone rings

Brass candlestick

He’s a reporter
So they have a phone

Tillinghhast

He’s going to speak again

Go to his home

Immediately

Puffs his briar pipe

Men of eminence
And reputation

His eyes terribly bloodshot

Face cut

Wind tanned

Evidence of having
Been out

In a strong high
And cold wind

Hmm

Can’t be true

Can it?

Puffs his briar pipe

Will you confirm

That you are responsible
For the lights?

Sighs

I will confirm nothing

Except that I am in
The possession of a machine

That can do things
Like no other

When I said that I had flown
From Boston to New York
And returned

I said nothing but what was true

Show it to us
Let us see this machine

I will show it
In good time

Perhaps in February
At an aero show in Boston

I did not seek this publicity

When did you build it?

Where is it?

Sighs

Puffs his briar pipe

It is the business
Of no one but myself

And my mechanics

Lights appear in the sky

Flies secretly at night

Seen leaving his home

At the train station

Hasn’t been home
All night

He telephoned his house
At 4

Knock on his door

Where is Mr. Tillinghast?

Where is he?

His wife
Pouter pigeon dress

Where he is
Is his business

He knows what he’s doing

He will answer all of your questions

When he is good and ready to

And not a moment before

It’s a whisper
A canticle from the sky

December 23rd

Main Street
Worcester

Night time
Christmas shopping

The Park Building
JP Kettel and Co.
Bancroft Hotel

The orange trolleys
Rattling by

Women in laced trims
Boned corsets

Low pompadour
Chignon hairstyles

Reporter Thomas Mueller
Strolling with his family

Holding Christmas bundles
Like everyone else

A light snow

Music from Thomas Edison phonograph

Top hit from Hayden Quartet

Up, Up, Up In My Aeroplane

If you envy the flight of the seagull
A far better bird I will find
It’s one of those things
That can fly without wings
For it carries its motors behind

Going up, up, up, up, up
In my aeroplane

With you I fly

7:30 pm

Someone yells

Look! Look!

Lights appear in the sky

Crowd of shoppers

Several policemen

Gather to peer

At the lights
A thousand feet aloft

Steadily growing in size

Sailing over the city

Stars are moving
The moon quickening

A silver ornament

With you I fly

Almost stationary

Over State Mutual Life Insurance Building

Hanging like a hawk

Mueller’s daughter

     – It’s Santa!
     – It’s Santa!

Mueller’s wife Evelyn

Burgundy checked wool coat
With pink buttons

We don’t know what it is dear

He knows that the best
Of children were sometimes naughty

And that the naughty ones
Were often good

It is the way
With children the world over

   – It’s Santa!
   – Mummy! Daddy!
   – Is it Santa?
 
Say it’s that machine

Isn’t it?

Tillinghast Machine

Someone says
He can distinguish

A frame quite plainly

I see two men!

Stars are moving
The moon quickening

A silver ornament

With you I fly

Again the search light

Thousands stand
In the street agape

Look at those lights!

Look at those lights!

Men and boys
Pour from the clubhouses

Women rush
From their houses

The streets
Thronged with people

Look at it!

The Common
Filled to capacity

Repeatedly circling
The city for hours

In a huge machine

It’s wonderful!

There is no doubt
That the same person

Was navigating
A heavier-than-air machine

   – Is it Santa Mummy?

   – Is it Santa?

Going up, up, up, up, up
In my aeroplane

With you I fly

Other newspapers
Start to doubt the stories

The Providence Journal

It’s an epidemic
Of infected vision

There’s no such thing
As moving lights

That are not meteors

It’s hard cider season
In New England

That says it all

Nothing can fly like that

It’s a remarkable delusion

A remarkable delusion
 

Puffs his briar pipe

Flies secretly at night

No matter how the wind blows
The kites right themselves

It’s a whisper
A canticle from the sky

Show it to us
Let us see this machine

The Providence-Rhode Island Journal

Tillinghast is absolutely
Incommunicado

The notoriety that has followed him
Since the mysterious lights were seen

Has seriously interfered
With his business

Not permitted
An hour’s peace

At his office constantly
2 or 3 people

Who want
To know something

At home
His telephone constantly rings

Reporters camped
Outside his door

Inside his home
Unidentified men sit with him

Black frock coats
Bowler hats
Curled mustaches
Pipes

Mysterious men

Who are they?

They’re the ones
Pulling the strings

He’s just a puppet

A puppet

Reporters
And private citizens

Decide to search
Every shed and barn

Within vicinity
Of Worcester

Every shed and barn

Scour the countryside

To find where
He stores machine

Tillinghast Machine

Fan out and search

United Press representative
Is arrested

And brought before
The Justice of the Peace

Trespassing

West Boylston
6 miles from Worcester

Claims he found the machine

Tillinghast Machine

What? People say

What?

Shed in dense woods

J.H. Gough Estate

A wooden shed
More than 100 feet long

Padlocked

Didn’t see what’s inside

14 men
Guarding the shed

Employ of Paul D. Morgan

Intimate of
Wallace E. Tillinghast

Known to also
Be interested

In aerial navigation

Invested in
Failed Swedish project

I’m telling you
It’s in the shed

Tillinghast Machine

In the shed

But the shed
Is never opened

One night
Wallace E. Tillinghast

And his family

Quietly move out

Gone

And so are the lights

Where did he go?

Did he fly off?

With you I fly

And so are the lights

Until reporter Thomas Mueller

On a stroll one evening
With his family

A light snow

     – Look Daddy!
     – Look!

They look up

Lights appear in the sky

Stars moving
The moon quickening

Silver ornaments

Two of them

     – It’s him, isn’t it?
     – It’s him!

     – They’re moving

     – Just for us
 
 
MATT BIALER is the author of eight books of poetry including Radius (Les Editions du Zaporogue), Already Here, Ark, Black Powder (Black Coffee Press), Bridge (Leaky Boot Press) Tell Them What I Saw (PS Publishing, UK) and Ascent.