Sunday, August 08, 2010

Arthur's War

I remember Arthur in war
Now that Arthur’s gone
His memories are mine

I remember a man just eighteen
On the quiet North Africa morning
Standing by his shining gun
Its master and its servant
Their war began and ended
Before their gun was fired
Destroyed by a bigger and more powerful German gun
Death arrived before its sounds were heard
Of gun and friends only Arthur lived

I remember Arthur in a Yank hospital
Where his good luck and youth
And the skills and labors of doctors and nurses
Granted him sixty more years of precious life
Months later back in England
In a Suffolk hospital he met
Then married Nurse Molly
Then soon was back among the friendly Yanks
Working in Supply at RAF Bentwaters

I remember RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge
Were birthed by war in 1944
Spitfires and Mustangs fluttered like butterflies
Rising from wheat stalk-paved runways
Then circling in droning swarms
Until a sputtering flare arcing high
Signaled formations in great V’s
Eastward across the English Channel

I remember Suffolk, an immobile aircraft carrier
Sending fighters and bombers over German factories
And farms, and cathedrals, and villages
Aircrews never seeing the frightened German faces
Scanning leaden skies for raining death
Or the faces of the prayerful Jews
In abandonment of hope for life
Wishing death equally on captive and captor

I remember Arthur
Serving in the Home Guard
Old men and boys and the wounded
Patrolling the Suffolk beaches
Scanning the North Sea horizon
Searching the leaden skies
Waiting and watching
For the ones that never came

I remember borne in war in 1942
With all the world’s mad pain and suffering
I was softly pulled from Mom’s belly
A triumph over her crippled hip and leg
My most precious gift from Mom and Pop
Brother Ron arrived less than a year later
Against long odds our little family grew
As other families perished all together

I remember when I arrived at Bentwaters
And met Arthur my first day on the job
The Cold War raged, and our 72 Phantom jets
Were in England to fly a deadly mission
A one-way trip to the Fulda Gap
Ending in a high-speed dive
A sudden pull up and release
A nuclear bomb powered by inertia and gravity
Flashing above the Eastern Army tanks and trains
Bringing death before sound announces its arrival

I remember fighting a thermo-nuclear war
Every month for over five years
Strangely war always arrived quietly
Dilly and I would be in the field
Dilly chasing a hare as I approved
Then on the dirt farm road
Our old Ford Anglia bouncing
Marilynn waving, shouting “Alert”
I changed to my uniform and raced to the Command Post

I remember plotting nuclear detonations
Of differing megatonage and how the winds
Distributed the nuclear fallout pattern downwind
Soon the first nukes would fall
London would be gone
The millions of people and the thousands of years
Living and building gone in a flash
Next Manchester, deadly for us
Prevailing winds would soon bring fallout
And we rushed to launch our flights of death
Before its silent and invisible shroud
Covered us

I remember, I remember
Another exercise is over
Released into the cold English night
From the bustling Command Post
The quiet, the silence, the peace

I remember telling Arthur
“Mate, I can’t imagine war,
What was it like?”
“Mike, I don’t know
It was over before I knew it”

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