The poem of the month for August is “We stood beneath the perfect vault of blue,” by Charles M. Hughes. This is one of the occasional poems that Hughes includes in his book, My Hands: An Air Corps Diary from World War II. Hughes was a maintenance man who worked on B-17s flying out of England during the war. His diary entry for March 20, 1944 was a poetic description of B-17s joining into a large formation prior to departing England on a daylight bombing mission to Germany:
“We stood beneath the perfect vault of blue”
We stood beneath the perfect vault of blue
And watched our air force grouping in the sun,
Before our sun was up. Each aircraft spun
A vapor trail, its milky residue.
Identifying flares of pastel hue
Hung thread-like down. Their thunder had begun
And amplified until I’m sure that none
Could doubt the universe was trembling too.
I spoke about the beauty of the sight,
The color, grandeur, form . . . . Before the thought
Was fully out I knew it was not right.
A thousand planes, ten thousand men! With nought
To do but kill and spread sterility.
The base of beauty is utility!