This week's Poetry Thursday assignment is to go on a field trip. As I live pretty far from anything resembling a bookstore, I went on a virtual one. I followed a long line of links, hoping that a poem (or even a whole poet) would speak to me.
When I came upon this poem I had a whoosh of memory. I knew this poem once, and somehow I had forgotten all about it. When I was in high school, my drama class put on a Remembrance Day assembly. My part in it was to recite this poem while my friend Brandy danced. She was all dressed in white and was under a black light. It sounds silly now, but it looked beautiful. I remember reading this poem for the first time and loving the language. It reminds me a little bit of e.e.cummings' work for it's sheer exuberance in word use.
I ended up having to recite the poem at my church - also for Remembrance Day. It was a very moving ceremony - with people standing up to tell their stories. One man had never told anyone anything about his experience in the war. For some reason that morning he felt safe enough to share. He had been on a submarine and they had been fighting with another boat all night. As the morning came they had finally sent a shot that was a direct hit. The men all cheered as they heard the explosion and the reports came in that the boat had been sunk. He said the cheers soon fell away into a profound silence as one by one they realized that that boat had been full of men just like them.
I got up to recite my poem right after all of this and I almost couldn't do it. I was so moved by the emotion of the service and the stories that I was in tears. I am always really moved by Remembrance Day services. I get really emotional seeing the veterans. I think I can sense how much suffering and pain they went through - something that many of us (hopefully) will never have to experience. I am honoured by their presence wherever I am.
Whew - that was a serious post! Here is the poem I wanted to share. The author died when he was 19. He was American but was fighting with a Canadian regiment in 1941. His plane collided with another in a cloud. A few months before he died he sent this poem to his mother. It gives me goosebumps.
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence; hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, Up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
- by Jon Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Pilot Officer, RCAF