For my twenty-sixth daily, prompted, voluntary assignment, today I was challenged to write a poem that contains at least one epic simile. These (Homeric) similes extend and develop over multiple lines with decorative elements that emphasize the dramatic nature of the subject. As suggested, I chose to write a complete poem as one long epic simile theme (salted with some metaphor) to carry the poem.
Flying Like Dragons
Like unleashed frightening awesomeness,
like giant thundering flying dragons with
massive wings lifting us skyward, roaring, breathing fire;
my brain blends with this pestilent machine, as if I’m guiding
an iron plague with deafening noise to wreak death,
to pour vengeance down upon their wrongs, a bane
to my enemies, a scourge of fire-for-fire. Flying
at invisible heights, with a sharp stinging tail, breathing
radiation into electrons, as my stealthy flying monster
seeks annihilation of the unjust.
Like a beast, it sees over great distances,
it smells its enemies in total darkness; then skillfully, silently
we approach as offensive defenders with hidden talons;
without emotion or fear, as if by kismet we destroy our prey
with automatic, irreversible, unmerciful curses.
Look both ways to see what is nearby but accept the limits of sensory perception.
Mind the gaps and trust your dragon’s instruments.
Today my Monday NaPo challenge was to “write a poem about a very large thing:” a mountain, whale, skyscraper, planet, or … an airplane.
I was in uniform when I first watched, from a safe distance,
100-yards away from the air base runway, standing out
among the brown shin oak, scrub-brush prairie of west Texas,
by then the second largest US state in size, while
dozens of B-52s took-off separated by mere seconds.
Wider and longer than half a football field,
each lumbering silver giant powered by eight jet engines
seemed to groan as it gradually lifted
its 450-thousand-pound gross payload airborne,
mocking gravity while ostentatious clouds of black smoke billowed,
a roaring thunder shattered my ears as earth trembling
vibrations shook my entire eighteen-year-old body.
My friend scoffed when I said I would. But later,
as a less young crew dog at the heart of the beast,
I flew the Big Ugly Fat Fucker, affectionately BUFF.
The B-52 bomber set at my fingertips unnatural
science-fiction levels of destructive power
unknown in all the wars throughout human history.
The BUFF leaked fluids, stank of puke and piss,
was cramped and uncomfortable, dangerous
even to us, who both loved and hated her. She was old,
ugly, unglamorous, and deadly. However, together
with us, the whole was greater than the sum of parts.
Eventually hundreds became few. Only bones
and a few isolated squadrons remain today,
approaching 60 years hence.
The missions were long, tough, and thankless,
and occasionally as scary as hell itself.
So, why are my memories framed with such palatable pride?
Look both ways and all around for enigmatic things great and small.
Mind the gaps but ignore the flaws.
Anybody can do the easy.
Embrace the suck.
I had started a different essay for this post when my wife informed me that our 43-year-old daughter asked this question. “How can these people talk so calmly about nuclear war?” Calmly? I needed to get caught up on the news. Who is calm?
As we discussed our distant past, Yolonda said, “You know, when you would go for a week of nuclear alert, I never thought much about it. It was your job. Nuclear war was simply your job.” She’s right. I was the Radar Navigator (bombardier) on a nuclear armed B-52D either at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, or later at Andersen AFB, Guam (and at other “satellite” locations).
At that time, we were in the midst of the “Cold War.” If Russia (or any country) launched a nuclear attack against the United States, my crew would be in the air within minutes, turning north to strike pre-determined targets in the Soviet Union. Basically, WWIII.
I told her, “I know exactly what damage nuclear bombs (or missiles) can do.” For eight years, it was my profession. For one week each month, it was my life: 24/7. The concept of nuclear war was real, possible, conceivable, but even then, somehow unthinkable. We did not believe it would happen because we would retaliate in kind. That was called second strike and we had plans for a third. The strategy was called mutually assure destruction (MAD). It was real. It was then.
Through my elementary and high school years (Cuban Missile Crises), through Viet Nam, and on up until my first day of pre-flighting and “cocking” a loaded B-52, the threat of nuclear war was impressed upon me repeatedly. Doomsday was both a reality and a joke.
Today I read that Vlad P. has threatened the world with nukes if anyone interferes with his war on Ukraine. The no love lost between Russia and Ukraine goes way back, but the point is the threat. He could nuke any nation in the world—and certainly in Europe.
I’ve also read that Russia may use nukes against Ukrainian resistance. These people are fighting for their right to exist. The only thing Ukrainians want from Russia is to be left alone and to live in peace. But Russia does not care. Their excuse? The Ukrainians don’t like them. Dah?
While it would be unprecedented for nukes to be used in such a limited conflict/war, Ukraine lacks the wherewithal to assure Russia’s destruction. We, on the other hand, in conjunction with our allies could provide such assurance. I would like them all, especially Vlad P., to believe we would.
On the lighter side, in 1964 (age 18), I sat in a theater on a Strategic Air Command base, and I watched this movie (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). Little did I know my future would not be so funny, although I confess, I did my best to make it so.
Look both ways and take a side.
Mind the gaps between the wars and push for peace.
Morality is not a spectator sport.
My Dog was a big, ugly, fat fucker (BUFF),
boasting an un-pavonine but prominent
painted a horrid unreflective tar-black; likewise,
his underside, from empennage guns to radome nose.
Chemical odors inside mixed with piss and puke
fouled the air; noise enough to deafen,
disaster and destruction filled his big ebony belly.
On command, my camouflaged killer would ‘Cry Havoc;’
wreaking horrible death and terror onto the earth below.
Now, we haunt display grounds at air museums across the country.
Look both ways.
What you don’t see can kill.
Mind the gaps and don’t be a target.
Note: Allusion is to “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war,” spoken by Mark Antony in Act 3, Scene 1, line 273 of Shakespeare’s history play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.