Friday, October 10, 2008

Red Gravel

On April 24, 1944: Earl opened his eyes.
At twenty-two thousand feet above Germany,
the whistling shrieks of a negative, thirtysome degrees
blasted through the shattered belly turret
where he hung
beneath the thunderous, shaking B-17.
Stunned by the explosive splatter
of fragmented metal, glass and blood,
his icing, numbing, wadded-up body spewed red;
suspended there,
these trailing streams of warm, life syrup turned midair
to tiny, falling, bouncing, frozen marbles;
rolling everywhere,
collecting 'round his boots and leaking body.
His Boy Scout training twisted down a tourniquet,
saved an arm, his life, where he lay;
no longer able to grip and squeeze
his 50 caliber crucifix,
unable to launch a final, deafening
lead-streamed curse
at yet another screaming, airborne satan.
Before exhausting consciousness,
it occurred to him
to try to scatter from the broken, glassy floor,
this growing accumulation of
rolling red gravels,
push them outside before losing altitude
and falling into the melting warmth of earthly airs;
sweep out now
or mop up later.
Defying belief,
this invisibly suspended,
half destroyed, smoking, flying fortress
bled across the heavens,
angrily wailing out to God for sanctuary.
Hardened warriors swarmed the tarmac,
and lost for words at the landed, shredded,
impossibly flown, ghostly airship,
they gently lifted out the dead and wounded
from within its riddled carcass;
the heroic last remains of their tail gunner, friend,
and the burned, yet somehow breathing pilots.
Of those within its crippled, massive length
not one escaped the butchery or carnage;
and with each wound each airman bought
the honor, the passion, the privileges

Dedicated to all WWII airmen as exemplified by the experience of Earl Burke of the 1st Division, 41st Combat Wing, 384th Bombardment Group, 547th Squadron, Station 106 at Grafton Underwood, England on April 24, 1944.

Copyright (c) 2007 Gary Brown

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