Poem of the month

August 2018

This month’s poem of the month is Pilot. I wrote this after a visit to Seahouses in Northumberland two years ago. We went there again in June of this year and the incident described in the poem came back to me.


They are beyond old, both of them
sitting at the next table,
brought in from the bus by carers,
a day at the seaside,
an outing from the Home.
Crumbs of scone on the tablecloth.
Telling her about himself, he says
I was a pilot in the war.
Time shifts, leaving out the in between.
Is he now in the draughty cockpit
of his Wellington or his Lancaster,
a world blown to bits, Europe in flames
beneath him, watching the anti aircraft guns,
flying low over houses, delivering death?
Or does he stand beside his Hurricane, or his Spitfire
somewhere in Cambridgeshire?
A sunny morning, his flying jacket open
goggles round his neck, the crew beside him smiling –
the lucky ones whose plane came back.
We have seen them in black and white photographs,
old newsreel, good looking boys, young faces;
with eyes that tell us that they have seen
what we cannot imagine.
Now they are beyond old, both of them.
His hand trembles as he lifts his cup.
She nods and listens.
Outside the seaside town goes on
with its shrieking children and gulls,
the smell of fish and chips,
the sound of the sea.

©Elizabeth Hare 2016