So cold here in the rear turret:
flying high, over the channel; out
bound for Holland and Germany.
Confined by himself, and with
somewhere else he’d rather be.
Going out to check the pasture:
Farm boy away from Tennessee;
going out to fetch the little calf
that’s leaning against its mother;
a past life that’s now cut by half.
Less than an hour to the coast, so
cock the levers fire off some rounds,
for now’s the time to test his guns;
still, it leans against the mother, so
young – she licks it with her tongue.
First blossoms come over Utrecht;
when soon the escorts peel away –
going to clean the pasture spring,
and turn the grass once after one;
mowing in the dew before the sun.
Flying on into the Reich skies,
as fighters now arise like flies,
to torment, then staying to kill.
The dew’s gone his blade’s keen,
his twin fifties cut into the scene.
A sleight of hand, ready to fight,
he’ll show how his weapons work.
A speck, now rearing into sight;
coming now – racing in, he pulls
the trigger and death comes out.
The ship next to his gets a hit,
broken-winged, spiralling down,
pray quick for any trapped inside.
He then remembers, for no reason,
barrelled apples – picked in season
At the Essen marshalling yards,
they drop their load to fall beneath;
the weight gone they can now rise free.
Banking for home, how could they see,
the cattle trucks – packed with refugees
On the home run the worst comes,
the crew now tired and exhausted;
with one-o-nines and one-nineties,
incoming again – and still again,
falling from the sky like black rain.
Such a maelstrom of explosions,
as bits of aircraft come falling;
past the line of his guns sights,
a human body comes rolling,
with no chute – holding his knees.
Sweat in his eyes the cordite smell,
his arms aching, guns are his art:
designs of darkness to appall,
such things not meant to till the soil;
instead, men’s bodies – blown apart.
Fiery tongues of flame, exploding
through thin metal walls – a shard of
shrapnel cuts through into his chest.
He feels the wetness down his side;
gloved fingers probe his Mae West.
The intercom crackling from the front,
just checking that he’s still alive;
he knows his role – he won’t be told;
his long scythe comes whispering down,
to lay the swale in such nice, neat rows.
P-47’s come now to save, so now
he can at last rest back on his seat;
back where his life was in staying,
at an old house renewed with paint,
inside it – a piano softly playing.
Below, he sees the coast recede;
the sun is warm, but he is chill;
dressing now staunching the bleed.
In his pocket, the little book he’d
tucked away that he may yet read.
Now, sixty years on, he recalls,
after reading some of the poems,
he’d swapped it for tootsie rolls.
After that he guessed it just got lost,
but he’d liked the poet – Robert Frost.
This little book found me on a stall,
in a Norfolk village church hall.
It’s story may – or may not, be true;
though, being once in a pocket,
I only hoped he came through.
© D G Moody 2021, 2022