A Fighter Pilot Poem by Ian Davis
Stewardess’s trolley rumbles as it comes down the aisle,
Map on the TV and we race mile by mile.
Glass of wine in my left and snack in my right,
I glance out of the window and look into the night.
The city lights below look like any British scene,
Manchester, Sheffield, London, Aberdeen.
They flash past the window and are soon at our back,
Not sodium like Sheffield but from Basra, Iraq.
In my Tornado I have been here many times before,
Close Air Support missions fighting a war.
Dawntime patrols protecting those in a fight.
Watching over our soldiers as they awake from the night.
Every sunrise is beautiful, the end of the dark,
As a boy often heralded by the call of the lark.
Now my Navigator and I discuss mission and plan,
As sun creeps over the mountains of Iran.
The sunrise’s beauty betrayed by evil below,
As we are called to a contact on our main radio.
Afterburners roaring we race to the scene,
Listening to the net, information to glean.
An enemy sniper positioned on a rooftop overhead
Has fired on a patrol, a face shot, Soldier dead.
‘Can you find the sniper before he flees from the town’
We answer ‘Affirmative’ and descend further down.
Al Amarah sprawls below us, sandy and vast,
It’s like a needle in a haystack but we stick to our task.
Feeling impotent and helpless, the seconds fly past,
Hope of finding the shooter fading so fast.
Re-tasked to ride shotgun for helos inbound,
We search for insurgents firing on them from the ground.
Double bladed Chinooks flying as low as they dare,
With fast-jet escort, circling round as a pair.
After a dozen of minutes the medic’s helos arrive,
To take the dead soldier to his grieving bride.
She’ll hear today from a Colonel of her husband’s brave fight,
But has his ultimate sacrifice improved the local’s daily plight?
Can anyone not argue that we’ve lost our grip.
We watch over the helo and this lad’s one last trip.
He touches down in Basra defended by guns,
And Iraq’s bloody conflict claims another of our sons.
Fuel reserves low and moral through the floor,
We need to refuel and continue some more.
Climb 20 000 and the tanker looms near,
Aerial jousting with breakfast and soon we are clear.
Overhead Basra, route clearance the task,
Focus on the job, not the boy in the cask.
A convoy is coming and they don’t want to get stuck
Our targeting pod’s picture datalinked to their truck.
In the middle of the road a stranger breaks into a run,
Odd to see such action in the mid-morning sun.
Side to side he scampers bending down as goes,
Unable to hear us, orbiting above him on the road.
We inform the convoy, they halt and stand to,
A recce team advances to assess what to do.
After inspecting a drain the stranger climbs into a car,
With 5 other lookouts who have been watching from afar.
Our weapons are loaded, boresight slaved for the kill,
Adrenaline pumps and we run through our drills.
Escape is futile with troops all around,
5 spread eagle fugitives are pinned to the ground.
More 2 way dialogue, communicating once more
quickly discovers a hidden arms store.
Machine guns and mortars hidden in a grove,
A freshly made IED to go under the road.
Half a day over, my energy gone,
Our fatigue is high in the midday sun.
We check out, depart and leave the south of the land,
50 minutes onward, wheels down and our friends.
Fast forward the years and at 30,000 feet,
with white wine, peanuts and strapped to my seat.
The stewardess asks would you like wine or beer,
As she looks at my face she can’t understand my tears.
The ghosts of my past linger in my memory once more.
They seem far away but still so close to the door.
Yet the future shines ahead with promises bright,
As Iraq’s city lights fade behind in the night.
Editor’s Note: This is easily the classiest piece of literature Tally One has posted to date! To those who say all of the Warrior Poets are dead, I say, “You haven’t met Ian Davis!” Well done, Ian.