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Friday, 7 November 2014

FIGHTER PILOT

Dedicated to all those who fought in the Battle of Britain...


August 24th, 1943

Leaving the hangar.
Counting the number of footsteps to my plane,
while buttoning combat jacket and pulling on helmet and gloves
like an actor donning costume,
getting into character.
The mask is always last to go on -
a serious superstition of mine
since my first successful dogfight.
Putting it on now,
I visualise myself surrounded
by heavy, impenetrable armour.

Steel grey clouds gather ominously above.
Swirling, constantly re-forming.
Shafts of sun break through here and there:
golden, full of dancing thistle seeds.
A jet black crow
glides through the moisture-laden air.
Scanning the earth from it's elevated vantage point,
it's wings create a seeded vortex
of displaced sunlight in the up draft.

Each scramble to action begins
with the first glimpse of the Hurricane...
proud eyes trace it's aerodynamic lines
to the end of the tail,
finally coming to rest on the roundel
emblazoned on it's side.
Pause and take deep breaths.
Banish fears and negative thoughts.
Leave lost comrades faces on the grass
when you climb inside
the claustrophobic cockpit
because, then should you be fortunate enough to return,
it's easier. You feel less guilt
for still living - the sky's no place
to keep company with dead men.

Strapping yourself in.
The engine roars to life.
You recite a silent prayer as you gaze
into the eyes of your wife in her silver frame.
Speeding down the runway. Each tree,
each stationary plane disappearing
into the rivers of air rushing by.


Then you're finally airborne.
You slice into the whiteness of the cloud
like a knife into butter,
and you're isolated, momentarily disoriented:
"What am I doing here in this nomansland?" you ask
out loud, in an attempt to quell
the now familiar rush of nerves.

Never relax until your job is done.
Only slipped up once these last three years:
a day of thunder storms,
a strong south-westerly wind.
I'd just taken out a Messerschmidt,
banked to the left -
then caught site of another
hard on my tail, spewing fire like some demented dragon...

and I thought I saw God's hand
reach out of the lightening.
How my plane shook in that Almighty grasp.
It would have been all too easy
to just lie back and allow myself to be spirited away
from the dreadful burden of guilt
I have to live with:
killing my fellow man never did come easy.

A drunken conscientious objector once accused me
of being no better than Adolf - of being
no less the mass murderer than he.
Reminded me of a picture I'd seen
in my father's illustrated Bible - of Armageddon
and the demons that descended from the skies,
bringing down flames and destruction upon mankind.
That bugger was prodding me with a nicotine-stained finger
and shouting in my face, his foul breath sickening me...
until my fist laid him out on the beer stained floor.

I'm quiet as a rule - unless, as you see, I'm provoked.
Like my own company most of the time.
Well, I'm used to it, doing what I do.
At Christmas I like a beer or two
while sprawled out on the back of my silver bird
and singing derogatory songs about the SS;
the stars lighting up the sky and crystals of frost
forming in my moustache.
Oh yes, I'm pretty relaxed and at ease then.

Girls seem to like me,
much more than their squaddie boyfriends
with all their camaraderie and wildly exaggerated tales
of bravery in the field.
Instead, they want the man they see
descending from the watery sun: freedom's fearless avenger
returning to earth, having preserved their future security.
How they clamour to touch this Dare Devil -
as if to absorb his essence through their fingertips
and etch it into ancestral memory for great-grandchildren:
"I knew a fighter pilot once, you know!"

At times, when I'm up here
suspended between Heaven and Earth,
I think of all those opportunities to be unfaithful to my wife.
But I love her like my own Soul,
see her face in the rolling clouds,
hear her voice in the engine's white noise...

just as I hear it now,
when she has somehow managed to materialise into my cockpit
and is pulling my mask off to kiss my lips...

Oh God!
I am suffocating in an explosion
of the blinding red flames of ecstasy...



22 comments:

  1. WOW this was intense...and I didn't foresee that ending :)

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    1. Just attempted to put myself into the place of one of those incredibly brave men...how terrifying it must have been for them...don't think I could ever be that strong.
      Many thanks for reading...:)

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  2. Hi Ygraine..wow..very powerful in words and images... and such intense energy flowing through this piece...your writing is always so gripping and potent..I felt like I was riding through it and in constant motion..you have taken all of my senses and spun them round and round...very emotional too!! Shine on, another fantastic journey!
    hugs
    Victoria

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    1. Thank you so much, Victoria...I really, really appreciate your visit...and kind words.

      Big Hugs xxx

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  3. Replies
    1. Hi SuperLux...really good to hear from you...and so glad you liked it!
      Many thanks :)

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Gloria.
      Hope you are having a great weekend!

      Big hugs xxx

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  5. wow, this is powerful, intense leaves my breathless as always Ygraine, you know how to write and take all breaths away...wow girl magnifique xo

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    1. Thank you so much, Sweetie!
      That means so much to me...truly.

      Hope your weekend is good!

      Big hugs xxx

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  6. WOW!!! My dearest, friend...I felt as if I was there and that ending gave me chills!!! You are the greatest!!!

    Hugs and Love
    xoxoxo

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    1. Oh thank you, dear Jan...from the depths of my heart.
      You are SO kind.

      Big Hugs xxx

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  7. Your introspective ways of pulling together others stories amazes.. You took me into the many, I’m sure, similar pilot’s worlds during those horrible times.. Wonderful…

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    1. I can't begin to imagine the fear they must have felt deep inside...of never again returning to solid ground, or ever setting eyes on their loved ones again.
      I know I could never cope with that level of stress...and yet they did.
      There is so much to be admired...

      Many thanks, Anthony :)

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  8. Wow Ygraine ! Just casually passing through the old blog site and I came across this gem of a journey igniting my sensibilities into the empathy of a world you have created through your poetic observations . The ease and the poise in your expression has taken on a world of mastery beyond any of my expectations. Just goes to show that perserverance is the mother of wisdom. Very dramatic ending befitting the mindscape of a young, feisty pilot taking on the responsibilities of a nation.
    Will try and visit more often in the near future when I will have some free time to delve and comment on your beautiful poetry.

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    1. Oh WOW...I feel SO honoured. Truly!
      Just felt so strongly about this subject...with the approach of Remembrance Day, my thoughts were on all those brave military personnel...and the enormous price so many of them paid for the freedom we enjoy today.

      It is so good to hear from you.
      I often drop in to check out your blog, in the hope that you are posting again.
      I do so hope you will soon!

      Many thanks for your visit.:)

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  9. I loved this poem. The line that really stuck with me was the one about donning costume like an actor. That's what they do. They enter the theatre of war. Good tribute.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. I guess that is the only way a person could cope with the reality of war...like an actor approaching his role...to think of it as reality would be too terrifying.
      Better, I suppose, to remain as detached as possible.

      Many thanks, CiL...so happy you liked this :)

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  10. Super, super, breathtakingly, amazing Ygraine. Wow, what a ride, beautifully written :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Rose!
      I have such admiration for brave Souls like these...can't help wondering where we would be today if it hadn't been for them...

      Hope you are having a great week :)

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  11. Wow, very powerful! Very deep!
    Hugs xoxoxo

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    1. Thank you so much, Sweetie!
      I have just returned from your blog...your Little Crows look absolutely magnificent in the shop!
      Very, very well done!! xxx

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my posts.
I really appreciate hearing your opinions...:)