The bomber kneels amongst its own decay,
silently surrendering to elements its name
finds difficult to resist. A Vulcan, earthed.
Not quite the most famous of its kind. Way back
on target to the Falklands, diverting to Brazil,
while sister bombs are falling, falling –
above the sudden call to arms, the Britishness
of making do, the many deaths, the saddened pride.
The menace of the Soviets, the breathless vortices
that twist and heal, the howl of engines from
lidded cowls, are gone – are only air that thins
beneath the damp umbrella of its wings. It always
comes to this. Only heritage and history are left.
The paint that dressed it for its role is cracked
and peels away. The gleaming white that meant
to turn aside atomic flash, exposed like bone.
Beside it squats Blue Steel. The brand evokes
the terror of the empty tin, and not the threat
of freedom by the sword. Its pitot tube is bent
into a hook. Cold war produced, its end corrodes.
Its blanked off rockets now deterrent the crows.
Thank you for sending this enjoyable poem. I’ve read it a number of times and it grows richer in my mind. Here are some more considered thoughts…
This is a meditation on a decaying Vulcan bomber. The word ‘earthed’ is powerful, ironic and expresses the major theme in one word. In a similar way ’empty tin’ evokes the cheap, throwaway culture that produced the plane in the first place. The poem is controlled, accessible to the reader in its verse forms and language, which are unproblematic. Sentences are readily manipulated into simple, compound and complex forms, while verbs are transitive for the most part. As a consequence, the poem is not making a comment about language and it’s problems of expressing truths, but contrasts the aircraft’s exploits in front-line attack with its current appearance in a scrap yard. The aircraft loses its name, which is especially poignant: it’s identity as a fighting machine disappears, too. Also, I wonder if the expansion ‘saddened pride’ in the second stanza is a bit too vague.
The poem explores visual impressions, the appearance of the machine triggering specific moments of history: the Cold War, diverting to Brazil during the Falklands crisis, the significance of its white deflector paint. So we have a contrast with power and loss, past and present, fighting and frailty, appearance and reality. All are there.
I feel the second stanza draws on other senses: sound in the howling engines, textures in the thin air and the damp. Subsequent stanzas return to the visual effects of peeling paint, flashes of atom bombs and a bent piton tube. Perhaps the sixth sense, that of danger, is evoked by the expression ” blanked off rockets now deterrent the crows.”
As a confirmation of ancient lore, ‘How are the mighty fallen’ (Samuel 1:25) and ‘Look on my works he mighty and despair’ (Shelley ‘Ozymandias’), the poem is a success.
However, because such potency lies in the decaying bomber, I wonder, John, whether the poem could go further and reach beyond this decay in some way. Could you create a new reality, drawing to contrasting areas of experience – bones and the empty tin, sister bombs and umbrellas, the swords and tubes, hooks and elements, and so forth? There’s a highly original poem struggling to emerge, I feel. It would mean grabbing the opportunity to create something much greater than the parts of an old aircraft falling apart and the easily -drawn contrasts, though.
Anyway, thank you very much for sending it over. I enjoyed the piece and look forward to receiving more! Perhaps further drafts of this one, John.
Love to everyone,
Cheers and next wishes,
Sent from my iPad
The poem, as with all of your work, is elegiac in tone, superbly witty and evocative in its metaphors and pictures, and informed its technical detail and its historical background – ‘The bomber kneels amongst it own decay…’ an eloquent, highly original recruiting sergeant for ‘CND’!