One of the Ten

Mine is the finger that pressed the trigger
of the twin .50s at the fighters as they
yawed and dove at the tail of our Fort.
Mine are the eyes that took the truest
picture of the war: The pilots saw barely
ahead, through the small high windows of the cockpit,
what was to come, quickening, the helical climb of
Focke-Wulfs, the brown box barrage of flak, the space
photo: view from a bomber
of blue air through which our metal would move,
the post of a near-sighted sentinel; the gunners
in the top and ball turrets, like christ and
antichrist, either the far heights that, engine-
cowled and oxygen-masked, could not be attained
even had we proved a wish to leave color behind,
or the spread of tan and green fields passing
below, the damp and dry sods into which we
would crash or later as all man, old men
eventually sink, the smell and sift of the slower
wind through tree leaves and yellow light
of the sun climbing farther, farther away;
the waist gunners frozen in the hued constancy of now.
All of us were prisoner to the atmosphere of clatter
and tint, a thinnest strip between the two
endless spreads of silence and black.

From the Cheyenne turret I saw the fullest range
from the cirrus to the surface, this moment to
the distancing past, collecting behind us like strata the
events of war, motions and smokes: agitating pearl necklaces
of tracers reaching for the steel bodies, the quick
and slow plummets of planes and bombs, the falls and
flippings of the airframes, the language-fertile beauty
of our created contrails addressing the empty sky,
the simple future choreography of descending thousand-pounders;
the limitless chain of pyres there, again there, and
there again on the ground like the flaming bonfires of some
Dark Ages celebration that extended to the horizons, but
marking the fall of Fortresses. From those chromatic gravestones
to the lucky B-17s of the protected top groups far above,
from the instant cracklings in our headsets to the far-past
point where human sight fisted and failed, I saw it all.