Poem of the Month for December 2020

This is the poem of the month.

The Poem of the Month is “Bail Out,” by Ben Swett. At the time that he wrote this poem, in the early 1960s, Ben was a Captain in the United States Air Force, assigned to the 830th Bomb Squadron, a unit in the Strategic Air Command, at Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was a navigator in B-47s. I like this poem for its technical accuracy and for the way the final stanza takes the poem in a new and unexpected direction. The term “bail out” means escaping from an aircraft no longer capable of flight.

Bail Out
by Ben Swett

She rode the heavens like a gull
On flashing silver wing;
With bones of steel and nerves of wire,
Hydraulic blood and heart of fire;
A lovely, flying thing.

As close as hands, or feet, or breath,
We leaped up towards the sun;
I was her master and her brain,
A human soul: a living plane;
We were not two, but one.

Then suddenly, disaster struck;
We towed a flaming trail.
While in my hand the stick went slack,
She flipped herself upon her back,
And fell like gun-shot quail.

I did not want to leave this home,
But knew it must soon die.
I took in a breath, tucked in my feet;
Then squeezed the grips that fire the seat,
And shot out toward the sky.

I swung beneath white shining silk;
My plane hit far below;
Returned its metals to the earth
That gave my human body birth,
And this one thing I know . . .

I ride my body, like the plane;
I love it well, and yet
When it breaks down beyond all doubt,
Then I, myself, will bail out,
And watch without regret.

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