Muse for Monday

My history is littered with poetry pertaining to war. By far, some of the most realistic and poignant pieces I have ever written were about war. In fact, my writing career began over a poem never expected to be about war. Many which followed it were a complete surprise…not unlike this one.

Nearly thirty years ago, I copied an assignment from a chalkboard. Write a poem using flashback. Sounds simple enough.

The following day, in a nauseating turn of events, the professor called on a student to stand and read the final product. One by one, students stood and read sonnets and limericks, haiku and a few odes about flora and fauna and puppy love. Third from last, my turn arrived.

Steadfast in my chair, I flatly refused both commands. Not the slightest bit deterred, she informed me the class would return to me last, but I would comply. Again, my turn arrived.

My protestations included such patently false excuses as misunderstanding the assignment and unease at speaking before the classroom. Ignoring them, she asked the real reason why I did not want to read my creation. My proclamation? Length, meter and subject matter. She answered with a single raised eyebrow.

The handwritten, three-page, twelve-footed ode flashed back to a train ride to Auschwitz. Its subject was one of which my classmates had no practical knowledge… until I had finished reading. Thankfully, the dismissal bell rang before any of them caught their breath.



Not happy about this one.

When the subject of war weighs on my brain, Mantra hides. She wants nothing to do with bullets and soldiers. Consequently, she has been in hiding for the last three days. I am also certain it fueled her angst for Just Write Poetry. She heard this one coming. Amazing what fairies can hear. I had no idea until it was time to make lunch I had something I needed to write today.

Grateful turned out to be as much a Memorial Day poem as The Box was a Valentine’s poem. Perhaps, my middle name really should be Tangential. Just as we did not look at the heart or tradition in The Box, we shall not visit the Veteran’s cemetery for Grateful. Nor shall we speak of one country alone.

In the end, I hope we are all grateful.


The skies are all quiet.
The tarmac awaits.
Walking around her
In reverent silence.
Running fingertips
along her skin.
She’s cool to the touch.

Pull away the blocks
And climb aboard.
Settle into the cockpit.
Controls spring to life.
Through the dawn rips
Whirring shrill engines.
Cabin pressurizing.

She bullets the runway,
Smoothly taking to air.
Dip one wingtip to wheel
Away from the horizon.
Circling back for just one
More view of home, lest
It be ever forgotten.

Steep is the climb into
The billowing clouds
Obscuring the wind screen.
Instruments guide through
Thickening, darkening gloom.
Testing mettle of the best…
Threatening those not.

Beginning the descent,
Drops splash on glass.
Feel her skin draw taut
against the wind sheer
Slicing across wings.
Gentling the stick
To maintain balance.

Burst from the dark cloud
Into tempestuous torrent.
Diving nearer, almost in view.
Altimeter whines, winding down.
Leveling smooth, paralleling
The ground through a thick
Of fog sprung from warm earth.

Edge just six degrees port.
Distance closing fast.
Draw in a breath, hold tight.
Gloved thumb anxiously waiting.
Four more clicks and visual
Glares out of the moist grey
Stabbing into the sky.

Eight seconds. It is a rodeo.
Hold her level as tons fall
Away from wing-mounted moors.
Wheeling climb grabbing Gs.
Not fast enough to call
Off unscathed and away.
Beneath she shudders.

Engine squalls losing pitch.
Scanning the screen in hope
Of spying the storm’s edge.
Must find a place to light.
Altimeter jerks vision toward
Starboard quadrant, but know,
Unfriendly reception ahead.

Draw back the throttle.
Throw up the flaps.
She grows weighty in thinned air.
Treetops rub her belly.
She lurches more starboard,
Protesting she must go
Unceremoniously down.

Pines and elders lash her down,
Hissing and fuming her mix
Of protests, laments and demands.
Violently she shakes to awaken,
From fugue between wake and nightmare.
Cracked glass focus sharpens.
Unbelt, unhatch, climb out.

The ground slaps back,
Punishing the affront.
Her port wing torn away
Where she lies on its stub.
Fuselage gaping, exposing her bare.
Already the stripping begins.
Grab the box and gear to stow it.

Hand laid in reverent farewell.
She’ll never leave this place.
Soft kiss of gratitude between rivets.
She delivered her payload with her all,
And she has never known another.
Take one last look, the final portrait.

Disappear into the woods.
Grab compass bearings.
Four hundred eighty nine clicks
To the harbor of friendly borders.
Fight hard not to fall
Before joining forces with brothers,
‘Twould belittle her sacrifice.



This poem is dedicated to the thousands of soldiers who never come home, be they missing in action or prisoners of war.

Happy Memorial Day to the American M3 Readers.
For the non-American audience, pause to pay a moment of silence for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in battle. 

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. This forces us to our knees, forcing us to remember and demand justice. It reminds us, even those who return often don’t return whole, lost in a battle they will never win; memories of their own.

    I am as always stunned by your heart.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Spare a Job, Brother?My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 28, 2012

      You are so in tune with me. Yes, he leaves her there holding a big piece of himself.

  2. A very vivid one, Red.
    Binky recently posted..Right Way Wrong WayMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 28, 2012

      Thank you, Binky. This one took me quite by surprise. It is likely the quickest post I have ever put on M3.

  3. Lest We Forget.

    Thanks Red for the reality check.
    Friggin Loon recently posted..Jesus Is BackMy Profile

  4. Bear

     /  May 29, 2012

    Bravo, how do you do it?

    • Red

       /  May 29, 2012

      My initial instinct is to be cheeky. Instead, I will say, strictly by doing.

  5. Her port wing torn away
    Where she lies on its stub….
    Red this is such a powerful poetry. soldiers/matyrs who left their home safeguarding the nations borders like fire wall,those who gave up their chances so that we can have more..
    a soldier no matter which country he sacrifices for should be honoured and his scarifices never forgotten
    Soma Mukherjee recently posted..Curio’s new friends-5 by Stuart YoungMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 29, 2012

      So very poignant, Soma. Indeed, the sacrifices are great. As Val mentioned, there are so many sacrifices we overlook when soldiers survive. We fail to recognize how the experience changes them at a core level. It is an example of the fostering of strength without much of the bravado which accompanies natural societal nurturing. Glad to see you this morning.

  6. C. Brown

     /  May 29, 2012

    Such a powerful and visual inducing post. Thanks Red.

    • Red

       /  May 29, 2012

      Good to see you this morning, C. Thank you for the compliment. This was one which felt its way to the page.

    Cat Forsley recently posted..Have a Wonderfullllllllllllllllllllll Summer xx CatMy Profile

  8. Any landing you walk away from is a good one! 🙂

    Nice piece Red! 🙂

    For all those who never made it home…

    God Bless!

    prenin recently posted..Monday – a trip to the Co-Op.My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 29, 2012

      Which is why she gets the kiss in the end. {HUGZ} Red.

  9. Extraordinary. Haunting imagery and personification of machine, rich with emotions and courage during a breakdown, setback, separation, and loss; all are so tightly woven together in this excellent piece of writing.

    Well done, Red.
    Phil recently posted..A Most Memorable Day – Memorial Day 2012My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 29, 2012

      Good to see you tonight, Phil. I hope you are rested after the race… Thank you for your compliments. This one truly felt its way to the page and was twenty minutes from scribbles to schedule (including a stop for a round of drinks for the kiddles).


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