Poems February 1992
by Leslie N~k1\orris, -->
Flight Sergeant (Pilot) John Curtis Bevan, 1314667, serving with the Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve) 611 Squadron, died on 9 November 1943, age 21, and is buried in Plot 4, Row AA, Grave 17, in Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, France. . . .
—excerpt from a letter from the Commonwealth War Commission
The Spitfire One
is made by Vickers Armstrong
in cities the three boys have not seen,
Southampton, Winchester, Swindon.
Each month in the library
they search Flight’s newest pages
for images of its symmetry, perfect
beyond eagles, thirty feet long.
Wearing incongruous floats
it wins The Schneider Trophy,
sweeping in tightest bends
above a riptide
breaking against The Needles.
They speak its language,
having learned by heart this rune:
one 1030-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin
V12 liquid-cooled engine:
maximum speed 355 mph,
range three hundred and ninety-five miles.
But in their minds
its flight is silent.
They imagine it through the air
with their gliding hands.
Their cycles race above the clouds.
They do not think of this:
armament, four 7.7-mm. machine-guns,
two 20-mm. cannons,
not even as they grow
into men’s long bodies,
manage their cracking voices,
learn that innocence ends.
On a wide beach
at the edge of Europe,
the sun going down,
they throw a football
above their running shadows.
As they twist and catch
the sand is granular
between their toes.
It is the last evening of peace.
The beach is dark as plums
and heavy with water.
A Message from the Editors
Support our crucial work and join us in strengthening the bonds of civilization.
Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 10 Number 6, on page 37
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com