Robert Frost in a pocket (A B-33 in a B-17)
I’ve had the little book (B-33) for years; and just watched again 12 O’clock High. So this is a meld – some mine – some Frosts, from the book; and I give him due acknowledgement.
Robert Frost in a pocket.
(A B-33 in a B-17)
He’s cold here in the rear turret:
flying high, over the channel;
bound for Holland and Germany.
Confined, all by himself, and with
somewhere else – he would like to be.
Going out to check the pasture,
a farm boy away from Tennessee;
going out to fetch the little calf,
that’s leaning against its mother;
his past life – that’s now cut in half.
Less than an hour now 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.
The first blossoms come over Utrecht;
when soon the escorts peel away –
he goes 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 has gone – his blade’s so keen,
his twin fifties cut into the scene.
A sleight of hand, ready to fight,
showing them 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,
so, pray for those trapped inside.
He remembers, with no reason,
barrelled apples – picked in season
At the Essen marshalling yards,
they drop their load that falls beneath;
the weight gone they can now rise free.
Banking for home, they could not see,
the cattle trucks – packed with refugees
Now on the home run the worst comes,
with the crew now tired and exhausted;
one-o-nines and one-nineties,
incoming again – and 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,
without a chute – holding his knees.
Sweat in his eyes, the cordite smell;
his arms aching, guns are his art;
designs of darkness to appal,
such things not meant to till the soil;
instead, men’s bodies – blown apart.
Fiery tongues of flame, explode through
thin metal walls, as a shard of
shrapnel cuts through into his chest.
He feels the wetness down his side;
gloved fingers probe his Mae West.
The intercom comes 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 nice, neat rows.
P-47’s come to save;
now he can 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;
a dressing has now staunched the bleed.
In his pocket, the little book he’d
tucked away; with time he may read.
Now, sixty year on, he recalls,
after reading most of the poems,
he’d swapped it for some 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 can only hope he came through.
D G Moody
( with acknowledgment to Robert Frost)