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A Polish Airman's Last Days

I found it hard to separate
his words at first, so I smiled
a lot and asked him how he felt.
'I am not ill, just tired of life,' he said.
Next time he talked of things he'd done
and seen, put on his leather flying jacket
from the war, showed me his motorcycle
that stood as if in wait, under a tarpaulin
near the back yard door. He showed me
pictures of his wife wearing tilted hats
and floral dresses from a time before
the world went mad and made him
fly a British plane and fight.
He gave me bowls of kapusniak -
cabbage soup - and sauerkraut to eat,
told me how a Polish Christmas feast
is carp. I took him to the park to see
some swimming in an ornamental lake.
He  said mock stern, 'Those are not
the ones of whom I speak'.
On my final day I had to tick some boxes
on a form that said he needed care.
He asked me to ride away with him
to Amsterdam or Abersoch or Aberdeen,
he wasn't really bothered where.
Tempted for a moment, he could see it
in my eyes, I said it never could be fair
to bring false hope, left the sentence
suspended in mid-air; signed the page of boxes,
walked away; turned back to wave goodbye.

16 Apr 06

Rated 8.3 (7.9) by 3 users.
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Absolutely lovely.  I am drawn into the relationship between these people so naturally, and the author so carefully avoids sentimentality and pathos that as a reader I don't feel forced into caring.  The underlying narrative is all implication; I love this because I am being told nothing, but get to experience something outside the bounds of my everyday, and the beauty in these two characters really gets my Sunday morning off to a good start.
My only crticism is so petty I don't feel much like mentioning, but I would like some stanza breaks for readability, and quotation marks where appropriate.  Good work.
 — mikkirat

Dear Opal

you create a finely drawn picture here of many strands which evoke an old man exiled to his home, in the country he lives in, far from the place he grew up.I often wonder what i would feel like sometimes ,growing old in a place far from the land of my birth.I also wonder what concious or unconcious impulse drove me to live in many different places before finally settling barely a stones throw from where i lived as a child.Some of this is a beautifully painted yet inevitably sad poem of a man who perhaps should spend his final years back among the culture and places he left so long ago,but should he? Well i guess thats just another story.

 — unknown

Another good one, opal. I agree with mikki re strophes and quotes (l4).

 — unknown

Hi ikkirat and sam - I've put some stanzas in.
 — opal

mikkirat - sorry the m went - though'ikkirat ' does have its charms.
 — opal

A very beautiful read. The internal rhymes are perfect and make this flow lovingly along. I am so impressed with this - gobsmacked really - and wouldn't want to chang a thing!  I agree with Mikkirat. The emotion is all understated which means this will take lots of readings and still bring something new to the surface. Well done Opal.

 — unknown

 — unknown

Reads better now.

I would give you a 20 - how about two 10's from both usernames?;)

 — unknown

 — unknown

Shit! Absolute shit!
 — unknown

i agree
 — unknown

Thanks so much smugzy, larry, sam - I'm still not 100% stanzaically sure, but its growing on me
 — opal

as for the 12 year old cabal - your days are numbered.
 — opal

Hi Opal,

I quite enjoyed reading this Poem.  Prose perhaps.

I know quite a number of surviving Polish veterans’s each has their own unique story to tell.

Getting back to the narration.

Line 9 did not lie easily on the mind or the tongue for that matter, does a back yard really have a door in that sense, or is it a door to the back yard.

“Under, a tarpaulin in the backyard.” Conveys all one needs to know.

Door does seem superfluous.

Line 13 is definitely a no, no.

No wartime pilot, Free Pole or other wise would ever describe his beloved Spitfire or Hurricane as a mere British plane.

Niggling points I agree, but ones that marred for me at least, an excellent narrative.

 — Mor

Not prose mor - poetry.
 — unknown

Subjectively I would neither consider it be either prose or poetry, and would possibly opt for narrative verse, which does not as far as I can see fit easily into either of the above two categories.

Perhaps you can enlighten me as to your definition of poetry as apposed to prose, and my suggested term narrative prose.

 — Mor

narrative prose? Try this definition for size - a novel
 — unknown

Well it’s a novel idea, however of no practical purpose.

A novel is in my understanding derived from the Italian “novella” a tale, a news item.
Even the French nouvelle is closely related to what  is now commonly regarded as a work of fictional prose, a short story containing a prose narrative of various characters or persons therefore I suggest your quiddity is of an erroneous nature
and your argument a cavil of little merit.

 — Mor

hi mor,

a poem can perfectly well tell a story - very few poems nowadays follow the cosmic poets who declaimed about nothing in particular, just to let others see/hear their own grandiloquence - I don't feel inclined to enter into a debate about what is and isn't poetry - if you want this to be narrative prose then that's fine with me, however I like unknown's comment about narrative prose being a novel - I like that said Offa. Sing it again. Thanks to Geoffrey (again).
 — opal

Hi Opal,

Meaningless hypothetical nonsense does not constitute an argument.
In other words, teacher’s claptrap, propounding an argument without a basis is no arguement at all, if your assumptions work one-way then they by logical conclusion works as equally the other way also.
Wearing a coat of many colours may have been all right for Joseph, however despite the jealously of others it was sanctioned by Jacob, who may I pray ask sanctioned yours.

In a moment of correction, I proposed narrative prose as being novel not unknown who merely presented novel.

Some of the worlds leading literary authorities cannot classify the term novel into a definite class are you suggesting that you are indeed their equal...
Are you perhaps confusing yourself in a novel of ideas that vague category of fiction in which conversation, intellectual discussion and debate predominate, and in which plot, narrative, emotional conflict and psychological depth in characterization are deliberately limited.
Novelty as I believe Johnston interpreted must be seen as a means to an end, not merely to shock the senses in meretricious or melodramatic display.
As an expert on poetry could it be conceivable that you are confusing your terms and meant to signify verse novel as the vehicle of your attention, it would certainly I tentatively suggest give better sense to your argument, such as it is..

 — Mor

 — opal

Hi Opal,
Credits were credit is due your manners are impeccable.

In the absence of a constructive answer to the previous summation, what perhaps would be you present view on verism.

That is presuming that you do indeed have a view on verism.

 — Mor

Not really, no.
 — opal

Opal, I really enjoyed this piece, and I have to agree with mikkirat: I felt invited into the relationship of these people, as if it didn't matter how I felt, and I was therefore willing to come around. It is beautiful and poignant, and delicately wrought. Thank you....one small bit of feedback: I was bothered by "back yard door." Does it ruin the flow if you omit "yard" entirely from line 9? I think it's safe to assume that the reader will infer that the scene in the second and third stanzas takes place in the back yard by the fact that he donned his jacket and their proximity to the back door, no? (10)
 — Maela

And now there is a new Polish diaspora - if such things can restart. Evocative.
 — dia

I had to tick some boxes -- the narrative nature of your poem was moving it along quite well each time i read it, but this little thing really stuck out like a sore thumb.
it made for an almost flippant sense, where none registered previously, or following. i enjoyed the poem other than that and found that some of the hiding rhymes revealed themselves and added to my ability to find a rhythm in this the more i read it. the rhythm was not easily come by for me, here.
merry christmas
 — chuckle_s

now that ^ is a critique that i had come to expect from chuckles. nice to see your old self back chuck.
 — unknown

im learning
 — chuckle_s

this made me cry a little. it is simply poignant and simple. so elegant. well done.
 — poppy_seed

Thanks to all who've commented - I've tried to strengthen the ending a bit - dia, I especially like the idea of the new Polish diaspora linking to this character somehow.
 — opal

Wonderful narration in this well constructed, fluid poem Opal.

There is little I can add to Mikkirat's initial comments other than I can see you have made the suggested changed to quotation marks and stanza breaks, so coming at this piece as late in the day I am, I am somewhat fortunate to read it tweaked and chisled here and there to produce a fine, intimate portrait of two lives meeting, divergances of experience, and this wonderful moment of human spirit which you place against a routine formality of administration, I felt the old Polish Pilot fly again briefly for a moment... very touching and perfectly observed, as Mikkirat said, avoiding the sentimental, with clear, quite vivid eyes.

And bonus points to you for dismissing the inane and tremendously superfluous attempts by Mordo to derail this commentary area in to his own little trough of nonsense.

well done  ;)

rated 10
 — Mongrol

Crafty for sure!  Well chosen subject matter but, reads too
much like a story for me.  Your skills did not go unnoticed
(especially the use of internal rhyme and well chosen
line breaks).  I enjoyed the read and would surely
recommend the poem though, I still feel as if it
is lacking some beef; maybe a few stronger
adjectives but, who knows it could just be
I am wrong as I often am.

Very much enjoyed the read.

andy spaschak
 — ruredernot

Please! It really doesn't take all the wordy bs to say this is a great piece of work.
Poignant, unsentimental, that's it.
 — unknown

Wow. I dont know much what to say about this. It just feels right, reading it. It doesnt stick out as wrong or clumsy anywhere. I really enjoyed it.
 — Ratwings

This poem gets better and better the more i read it.

Larry xx Lark
 — larrylark

i reads pretty much like a "dead souls say the darndest things" in an old issue of readers digest. it's what passes for poetry and verse, for people who can't read poetry without thinking it's stupid. and it's a little story that's tiny enough for tiny minds to get their experiencials around and be able to make a smart comment about at a tea party. it really shouldn't be in a poetry list, but it is, but this site isn't really about poetry as much as about having a dumpster for newly discovered emotions and recently realized fake and empty lives to share talky about. it's hard to see how something like this can work in a world of fractalcore and fmoodle... people who are trying to breath life into word pattterns, but there it is. in any case, there's not enough room for more than one kashmiri nocturne, so i suppose this one is snuck through the list as "special writing, shorter than english patient, but not as complicated".
 — joey

Thanks mong - sometimes people meet in the oddest circumstances, so for me it seemed writing about.
 — opal

ruredernot, - I agree thet there could be perhaps some stronger word choices, but that would make a very different poem, maybe one I didn't want? but I do take on board what you say.
 — opal

larry, ratwings. poppyseed - I very much appreciate your appreciation.
 — opal

Joey - from reading your comments, I get the impression that subtle effects, ideas and emotions are not what you're looking for and your definitions of poetry strike me as very odd. I see what you're getting at and what you're hoping to find, but I think you're the only one writing it, so keep on keeping on and I'll do the same.

Ta Ra, to quote the  2 great Bryans - Ferry and Eno.
 — opal

that's pretty insulting, and i'm supposing it's because you haven't read my poetry or noticed how subtle my comments can be. this poem isn't anything but a hanging out on the line of your underwear, tagging it with "this is my honest self", and supposing that victoria's secret and calvin klein are going to give it class. it may be that you don't read a lot of different kinds of poetry, and that you don't like music, but even so, this isn't in the league with bishop, no matter who else says you're on the right track. you have to lose poetry, lose the ability to say anything, before you can start writing honestly as a writer. opal, you're a nice person, but you're giving us cambell's tomato soup and calling it fresh venison.

even so, i'm a vegetarian.
 — joey

joey - don't get your knickers in a knot, for you reveal yourself constantly to be an old softie with a fine and brittle carapace; as for fresh venison - i've gone far too far down the road of bloodless, blood free meat to be tempted by anything quite so visceral. Compare my work with an oyster - been around a good while, quite versatile, full of integrity, good tried raw and reasonably cheap at certain times of the year.

Ta Ra once more.
 — opal

i think for me the problem with this and the bishop poem is one of sensitivity -- i'm reading a poem as a writing created as i read it, and this poem reads like a "list poem", where the idea is that you're supposed to have the poet in mind and wonder at her sensitivity in choosing to say just these things and not others. and, if i read this in some sort of newspaper or shortstory way, then, yes, the concept of it is true enough, though even then, so unevocative of whatever might have been the reason for the airman's being there at all. i've read the histories. this is, at its nicest, like looking at the old uniform and medals, and the snip of ribbon in the envelope, and the old man writing this comment to you and saying, well, yes, i suppose we did look like that when we set out.
 — joey

must be number one based on Opal fan club, not quality of poem?!
 — unknown

the site is mostly an oprah book club of sharing of sentiment, and this one works fine on that level... quick and easy deep thoughts over coffee. it's not about the making of poetry or even the invention of emotion, which is what artists talk to themselves about when they're alone. the coffee is in common though.
 — joey

laugh...i nearly died.
 — opal

amazingly simple. great.
 — fireballems

Seems more like a story than it does a poem.  It's okay, but I'm not feeling the poetry in it, per se.  Sorry.  
 — unknown

narrative poetry.
 — unknown

equals inferior poetry!!!
 — unknown

irony is such a funny thing.
 — unknown

i wish i was as cool, hip and punk rock as joey ;)

the streets tremble when that people's poet hits the tarmac...
 — Mongrol

well, when you build ye streets of flesh, even the sewers wave hello. so, ban me or something.
 — joey

perfection. how's that for helpful? ;)
 — Catbox

There is an element of truth at the heart of this poem - the old man was real and the relationship was made but is fictionalised - the poem is largely a metaphor for the way we lead our lives - never meeting anyone or anything outside our comfort zone, The ending symbolises what happens to so many when we do.

I was astonished to almost see the poem almost come to life on Thursday evening when i watched a documentary film called 'Our Street' made by a film-maker who has lived in a street of 160 houses in west London for 14 years but knew hardly any of her neighbours. She persuaded some to take part in the film and met a 91 year old Polish man who has lived in the street since 1948 and has lived alone 'since my wife chose to leave me - in Hammersmith hospital in 1997.' He knows no-one and spent his days feeding the birds on his windowsill. The film-maker has maintained their relationship so he now has some contact with the outside world - just thought I'd share it - life seemed to imitate art for a moment.  
 — opal

The ending is too predictable.  There's a lot of wonderful stuff here, but you really let me down at the end.  I wanted more elaboration on the "things" he "talked of."  Some lines aren't working very well on their own--the price of relying perhaps too heavily on the narrative.  However, there's much to admire here.  Good job.  With some polishing, this could be amazing.
 — TaylorC

very creative
 — unknown

moving actually
 — sexfear

every word perfect.

mock stern is genius.

unintentional iambic roll.
 — jumpoline

Sunday magazine meets Mr. Rogers
 — unknown

larry mafia likes it.
 — joey

joey you're so funny. Any more of larry's mafia want to have quick rate? Go guys.
 — unknown

I see we've been called to action. The second battalion has been alerted. Let's go lads.

 — unknown

nice story, but not effective as a poem.  I felt nothing and will remember nothing of this piece.

I did like your comments more than this poem entry.  Keep writing lad.

 — john

This is wonderful.  I was there with you, almost convinced to take that wild ride.
 — Isabelle5

This was supposed to be about your first orgasm. Why did you write this insteadd?
 — kurt

kurt and john - thank you so much. You are both so incisive. Obviously not molar boys you two. Did I say you resemble sheep? Did I? What a terrible thing to suggest. Just because you both have close set eyes and long noses and everything you says sounds like baa, baa, baa. Help someone is impersonating me! I would never be so mean. Night lambs.
 — opal

Thanks isabelle. The bike looked a bit dodgy really - I couldn't have my heroine fly off clutching her clipboard half way to the Brecon Beacons now could I?
 — opal

Yeah, well, good night to you too. Good night John. Is John a boy lamb or a girl lamb?
 — kurt

this captures the pathos of ageing with a wry wit in it -- this reads from the perspective of a home care person checking up on the old guy -- the writing is picturesque and reads like a snapshot in life -- it reads on a couppla levels -- wondrous writing
 — AlchemiA

 — unknown

Wonderful poem
 — rivergood