If you have an aviation related poem that you would like to see posted here, please email it to the WebMaster.
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
-- RCAF Flight-Lieutenant John Gillespie Magee Jr. (1922-1941).
At sea, the moonless, mantled night
Is blacker than a hundred midnights
Deep in the maw of a cypress swamp,
And the Carrier's running lights
Are hooded and dimly impotent.
Sixty feet above the sea's foaming curl
Sleek swept-winged birds are unchained
From a gray steel slab--the flight deck.
Whining and howling engines contain
The turgid power to sustain flight,
The inky blackness is punctuated
By director's glowing amber wands,
Like syncopated fireflies
Beaconing signals with practiced hands,
Guiding blind craft to the catapult.
The movement is a symphony
Of frantic, chaotic precision
That reaches a shuddering crescendo
With each taut, measured decision
To unleash the catapult's awesome might.
Each cockpit is an instrumented
Womb of pale red profusion,
Eerily silhouetting mask and helmet
Donned by young lions--their calm tension
Mounting as the critical moment nears.
First a red wand circles, stabs the gloom,
Urging the throttle forward to ignite
The red afterburning tongue of flame
Searing the fragile veil of the night.
The tethered bird shrieks and strains to soar.
Then the green wand--all is right--
Signals in a graceful, swinging arc.
Powerful scalding, steam is unleashed
To hurl the bird into the milky dark,
Jolting the pilot with blurring force.
And the loud, sweaty ballet goes on
As each winged chariot, one by one,
Is given the wrenching gift of flight,
Until the last is away and gone,
Engines' thunder fading in the night.
- John Newlin - 1988
Autumn leaves rustling, together to the appointed place,
the old warriors come.
Pilgrims, drifting across the land they fought to preserve.
Where they meet is not important anymore.
They meet and that's enough for now.
Greetings echo across a lobby.
Hands reach out and arms draw buddies close.
Embraces, that as young men they were too uncomfortable to give,
too shy to accept so lovingly.
But deep within these Indian Summer days, they have reached a
greater understanding of life and love.
The shells holding their souls are weaker now,
but hearts and minds grow vigorous, remembering.
On a table someone spreads old photographs, a test of recollection.
And friendly laughter echoes at shocks of hair gone gray or white, or
The rugged slender bodies lost forever.
Yet they no longer need to prove their strength.
Some are now sustained by one of "medicines miracles," and even in this
fact, they manage to find humor.
The women, all those that waited, all those who loved them,
have watched the changes take place.
Now, they observe and listen, and smile at each other; as glad to be
together as the men.
Talk turns to war and planes and foreign lands.
Stories are told and told again,
reweaving the threadbare fabricate of the past.
Mending one more time the banner of their youth.
They hear the vibrations, feel the shudder of metal as engines whine and
whirl, and planes come to life.
These birds with fractured wings can be seen beyond the mist of clouds,
and they are in the air again, chasing the wind, feeling the
exhilaration of flight close to the heavens.
Dead comrades, hearing their names spoken, wanting to share in this
time, if only in spirit, move silently among them.
Their presence is felt and smiles appear beneath misty eyes.
Each, in his own way may wonder who will be absent in another year.
The room grows quiet for a time.
Suddenly an ember flames to life. Another memory burns.
The talk may turn to other wars and other men, and of futility.
So, this is how it goes. The past is so much present.
In their ceremonies, the allegiances, the speeches and the prayers,
one cannot help but hear the deep eternal love of country they will
Finally, it is time to leave.
Much too soon to set aside this little piece of yesterday,
but the past cannot be held too long, for it is fragile.
They say "Farewell" . . . "see you another year, God willing."
Each keep a little of the others with him forever.
Check your six!
I hope there's a place, way up in the sky,
Where Naval Aviators can go, when they have to die.
A place where a guy could buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade whose memory is dear.
A place where no blackshoe or porkchop could tread,
Nor a Pentagon type would e're be caught dead!
Just a quaint little O'club; kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke.
The kind of place, where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected by the men she would know.
There must be a place where old Navy pilots go
When their wings get too weary, and their airspeed gets low.
Where the whiskey is old and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the shipmates you'd served with before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came thru the door,
Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"
And then thru the mist you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen in years, though he'd taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head and grin ear to ear,
And say, "Welcome shipmate, I'm pleased that you're here!
For this is the place where Naval Aviators come
When the battles are over. and the wars have been won.
They've come here at last to be safe and afar
From the government clerk and the management czar,
Politicians and lawyers, the feds and the noise,
Where all hours are happy, and these good old boys
Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest!
This is Heaven, my son, you've passed your last test!"
One Last Roll
We toast our hearty comrades
Who have fallen from the skies,
And were gently caught by God's own hands
To be with Him on high,
To dwell among the soaring clouds
They have known so well before,
From victory roll to tail chase
At heavens very door.
And as we fly among them there,
We're sure to hear their plea:
Take care, my friend,
Watch your six,
And do one more roll for me.
-Capt. Jerry Coffee, USN (Ret.) & Viet Nam POW
[Thanks to Roger Harris the submission]