War Lords: WWII Airman’s Lament

This poem was written by my late Grandfather, Ray DePalma, once a crew-member on a B-29 responsible for gunnery and arming bombs before they were dropped on the Pacific Front in World War II. The poem complicates the lines we draw between human beings in times of war, making its poetic thesis singularly apt for this November 11th. If you wish to share this poem, please cite the author. It was originally published in “People, Places, etc.” Marens Publications. Glenview, Illinois, 1990.

Ray DePalma in the classroom after the war.

War Lords: WWII Airman’s Lament

In the silent blue sea of the Pacific
Rises a skull-shaped coral mass.
Here reside the silver birds of death

Silently their cargoes of doom
Are fitted into fat bellies [5]
Leaving very little room

Bombs of napalm, TNT,
Bombs of doom,
All destined for a city.

Warriors clad in brown and tan [10]
Some in green who don’t give a damn.

The black props start to scream
Their songs of death and doom,
Stirring up coral dust
Like swiftly moving brooms. [15]

Off they climb in dusky sky
To bomb a city as they fly.

Onward they fly over darkened sea
Moving forward, degree by degree.
The landfall ahead bright and red [20]
Torched by the bombers who flew ahead.

In the city below
Souls cry out in pain,
But warriors above
Remain the same. [25]

In the hell of flames
People plead for pity.
But warriors above respond,
“Tonight we only bomb a city.”

~Ray DePalma, 1990

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Filed under Literature, Poetry, Veteran's Day

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