Pilot (For Daniel)

Colonel Daniel Blake USAF 1931-2009

An elation in the freedom of the blue highway.
Interacting with space, that clear vast infinity.
In the realm of instant release up there,
in a place where the mind dissolved any care.

The silver bird waited for takeoff position.
A cloudless sky pointed the way to ignition.
That familiar feeling of airborne speed,
seemed for him to be a basic need.

Physically dashing and agile,
With an instant luminescent smile.
Speeding to a cerulean soar.
Liberated by a jet engine’s roar.

You have smelled an evening jasmine’s perfume,
and buried your face in a magnolia bloom.
You knew those heady fragrances well,
but your neurons lit up at an engine’s smell.

A calm confidence with supersonic speed,
he had many missions, to succeed.
He was acquainted with the engine’s hum and boom,
and the many lights and dials in that small room.

Piloting with the precision of experience
took away other treasured moments,
as an able aviator,
and a wartime jet fighter.

Splitting a second with competent reactions.
Unfazed by deliberate, dangerous transactions.
If there was a malfunction in the jet,
deciding whether or not to eject.

Is it a genetic spatial belonging?
A gift for proficience, or a passion’s longing?
At that height, no time to hesitate or fret,
a basic trust in an automatic mindset.

Pulled skyward with magnetic attraction.
Focused and geared for instant action.
The seclusion soothed a suppressed soul.
A state of deliverance not felt by all.

The constant drone of sound in his ear
was the way to the kingdom of atmosphere.
Having balanced on the edge of a knife,
how did he view a normal life?

Some conflicts could have meant a final day,
a duty to country which he had to obey.
Those earthbound folk — they just don’t see…
or know the fliers’ camaraderie.

The risks are not just with the orders given;
but also with how the body is driven.
Every scare or combat that he has been in,
has flooded the cells with adrenalin.

He has enjoyed the single clarity of thought up there.
Love of solitude and solitude of love, to compare.
He was not confined by a pilot’s seat,
sometimes on earth he felt incomplete.

Frustrated by the expectations of enjoyment.
Dealing with the forceps of disappointment.
Let’s not get bound by the philosophy,
of what it was he wanted to be.

There were continents beneath his feet.
At night, quiet countries asleep.
Urban areas twinkling and brightly lit.
Rural places as dark as a coal pit.

He has covered all the oceans of the planet;
the white of Antarctica, the Arctic’s pale palette.
And seen how man has inscribed his way
over mountain terrain and fields of clay.

Reminisce on the pleasant sights he has seen,
the desert yellow and the jungle green.
Observed all the phases of the moon,
and stars without pollution’s gloom.

He knew every type of cloud there can be,
and has witnessed the earth’s geology.
He has seen every colour of dawn’s first run,
and every flushed tone of the setting sun.

That magical glow just before night —
the fading radiance of twilight.
Water vapour in all its many forms,
and the places where the clouds are born.

The trade-off is coming down to earth,
that moment after a difficult birth.
The world is such a limited place
compared to the endlessness of space.

If you can manoeuvre a plane
you can adapt to earth again.
If you live inland, what do you lose?
The junction of your two favourite blues.

Is there life after flying — life after death?
You contemplated with an indrawn breath.
Those brief unfulfilled moments of time,
was the land of lost opportunity, mine?

The clock jumps forward too many hours.
The body has diminished many of its powers.
When retired, where would you like to be?
Fishing from a boat, on a summer sea.