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Zero Fighter Pilots


Revision #1:

Hiroyoshi speaks quietly
of the girlfriend
he had four years ago;
she wore western clothes,
a dark velvet skirt
to the ankles suitable
for an orchestra and ballroom;
a severe jacket, an oversize brass
chrysanthemum at the lapel.

Hiroyoshi and I fly everyday,
my uniform hangs down like his
in the humid press of the jungle
surrounding our airfield.

Overhead, short-waisted bitterns
wheel and fall on the yellow
canebrakes. Any puff of wind
like steam off a kettle.

We see the growing number
of empty chairs, pilots missing
from our mess tent.

He writes to his sweetheart,
then sets the paper aside.
We will soon fly again.

We withdraw from the new men,
rarely learn their names,

Airborne,
he calls to alert me,

Sakai,

Sakai!

our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane disappears over
the soiled mass of Port Morseby.
 
In our tent, a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi
writes a poem:

High-up the seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals “go home.”
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base.
I set the fuel lever to “Lean” and edge the c ockpit screen open,
fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free in wind,
my only friend goes ahead and I follow rising on the incense
of chrysanthemum ash.









Original:

1939

Before meeting Hiroyoshi
she carefully selected her dress;
a western, dark velvet skirt
to the ankles suitable
for an orchestra and ballroom;
a severe jacket, an oversize brass
chrysanthemum at the lapel.


1943

Hiroyoshi has malaria, but flies everyday;
his uniform hangs down
in the humid press of the jungle
surrounding our airfield.

The lack of spare parts for our fighters,
the growing number of missing pilots
from our table in the mess tent.

He writes to his sweetheart,
then sets the paper aside.
We will soon fly again.

Overhead, short-waisted bitterns
wheel and fall
on the yellow canebrakes.
Any puff of wind like steam
off a kettle.

Airborne,
he calls to alert me,

Sakai,

Sakai!

our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane disappears over
the soiled mass of Port Morseby.
 
In our tent, a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi
writes a poem:

High-up the seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals “go home.”
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base.
I set the fuel lever to “Lean” and edge the c ockpit screen open,
fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free in wind,
my only friend goes ahead and I follow rising on the incense
of chrysanthemum ash.

 


Last edited by 36064, Jan/3/2013, 10:54 am
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Hi Bernie,

I'm sorry to have neglected responding to this poem for so long. It has good bones, reads well, moves quickly, is rich and ripe with details and is almost there.

I would add another detail or two to this first section. For example, as a reader I'd like to know something about the dress "she" so carefully selected. Does this sweetheart need a name? Maybe. Right now she seems like a prompt or an afterthought, a bit of a prop to me.

1939

Before meeting Hiroyoshi
she carefully selected her dress;
untouchable like an off shore moon,
wet hair uncombed, drying on the air.

1943

Tall and lanky for a Japanese, his ribs poke out.
He overheats with malaria.
As we fill our pedal cart with fruit, Hiroyoshi
slams a melon against a rock and we rip
great chunks with our teeth to eat like crocodiles
in the New Guinea marsh.
  
Overhead, short-waisted bitterns wheel and fall
on the yellow canebrakes.
  
He writes to his sweetheart, then sets the paper
aside. We will soon fly again. Airborne,
he calls to alert me,

Sakai,

Sakai!

our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane disappears over
the soiled mass of Port Morseby.

I like that the N tells the story of both men up to this point, but I am bothered by this last part being a poem the N takes down as dictation from a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi. I don't understand the logic behind this but suspect I am missing something obvious and important. Without that missing piece, I am left wondering if there is a better way to introduce this poem within the poem.
  
In our tent, a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi
writes a poem:

High-up the seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals “go home.”
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base.
I set the fuel lever to “Lean” and edge the c ockpit screen open,
fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free in wind,
my only friend goes ahead and I follow rising on the incense
of chrysanthemum ash.


The final stanza itself I like as a combined portrait of reality and a poetic take on that reality. The same thing happens I think when the term "zero fighter pilots" is used as the title of the poem and as a result takes on an amplified meaning.

Thanks for posting, Bernie. Hope something here helps.
Dec/30/2012, 8:44 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


K---


very helpful feedback. very.

the girlfriend is my construct, there is no romantic interest in the two auto-biographies i read from japanese pilots---not generals, these were the men who fought the war up close and personal.

western dress and music had a vogue up to the point the poem identifies, 1939; --- the nazis were invading poland and Stalin was concluding a non-aggression pact to buy time for russia to arm and modernize.

as pearl harbor arrived, the Zero was easily the best long range fighter plane in the world.

the pilots were deadly serious, but slowly became exhausted.

they died.

the girlfriend felt annonymous to me, but not her dress selection. no real way to carry her forward into the poem short of sentimentality. and the problem if three rather than two japanese names are used, that is, the reader tries to keep score just when i want his/her attention on the poem.

she appears briefly in the poem for the same reason a woman appears in most american made war movies.

but she should not appear superficial, hope to heaven.

but I am bothered by this last part being a poem the N takes down as dictation from a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi. I don't understand the logic behind this but suspect I am missing something obvious and important. Without that missing piece, I am left wondering if there is a better way to introduce this poem within the poem.

think i will change the word sleepwalking...

he is just exhausted, but not actually sleepwalking, he writes his own poem, shares it in a manner that the poem does not specify, but the poem writer only has one other man who understands what he is feeling...not the sweetheart. in that regard, american soldiers coming home encountered the same problem.

as for the poem transfer, often a note is found in a bottle, an old letter is finally delivered, or a voiceover...henry james does this by saying the story was told to someone else who much, much later told him...

whew.

i decided on a less fantastic method, one man speaks to a trusted companion.

thanks again for your insight.



bernie

  







Last edited by 36064, Dec/30/2012, 10:25 pm
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Hi Bernie,

I appreciate understanding the background thinking that went into this poem. I suspected that the sweetheart was intentionally left anonymous and for the reasons you state. I agree you don't need to name her, but as a reader I'd sure like to have one small detail about her dress that I can see and that would reassure me she's real albeit diminished in the pilot's memory.

I've thought some more about that poem within the poem. I considered at first that Hiroyoshi might have sent it in the letter he was writing to his sweetheart, but you explain why that wouldn't have been the case. I've pinpointed the problem I was having with the poem within the poem conceit: I found it hard to believe that both pilots would be poets. (Not that pilots can't be poets or vice versa!) It would provide though another reason why they were friends.

There, now you have the quirky reasoning behind my critique. emoticon
Dec/31/2012, 8:55 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


K---

thanks and i am going to address that issue of the two poets; only one is proposed by the poem, how to make that clear to the reader is something for me to ponder closely.

one man is simply given access to the private feelings of a much deeper individual because of their long shared experience---sacrifice, danger and disillushionment.


now, a dress detail is on tryout in the poem---


1939

Before meeting Hiroyoshi
she carefully selected her dress;
a western, dark velvet skirt
to her ankles suitable
for an orchestra and ballroom
worn under a dark blazer offset
with a large, single brass
chrysanthimum at the lapel;
  
untouchable like an off shore moon,
wet hair uncombed, drying on the air.


 


thanks again for looking in on this poem.


bernie
 

Last edited by 36064, Jan/2/2013, 12:30 am
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Wow, there you go. That's not at all how I imagined the outfit she selected, and I like the way you've tied in the chrysanthimum at the beginning and end.

Maybe the confusion over how many poets are in the poem is peculiar to me? It could be a brain freeze on my part. Same could be said of my hankering for more details about the sweetheart's clothing. That's why I'm hoping others will weigh in. . . .
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


K---


i'm very lucky to have such a careful and perceptive reader in you,

oh yes,

the chrysanthimum lapel pen in the first V, becoming the funeral pyre in the last lines of the poem.


not to say if it is good or bad, but important for me, and hopefully a reader, to notice.


and the way she elects to dress,western.

that would soon stop, that style, as america entered the war and japanese propoganda pulled out the stops.

you know, about the same time Hitler made american, ballroom style dancing illegal for a while the intent was to help focus the german people on the nazis cause and to diminsh national influences not approved for supporting the war effort.

so so helpful.

thanks again.


bernie




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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


hi guys,

For me, there was no confusion re: the number of pilots and poets. I didn't find myself hankering for more details about the dress. I didn't know that the Zero was a long range fighter plane but don't think that makes a big difference.

Still, the poem strikes me as fragmentary and I'm having some difficulty 'cohering' it. S2 is very strong but strikes me as taking place in a sort of outdoor/street market and I don't know how to connect it to the following images of war and fighter planes.

This could be dullness on my part, so feel very free to disregard everything I just wrote. I agree with Kat, "it has good bones..."

Chris
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Hey Chris,

Thanks for weighing in. That sense of the poem being fragmentary might be what led me to want more details about the sweetheart, but now you've got me wondering if I wasn't looking for a solution in the wrong way/place. As for the number of poet pilots, oops! I had a feeling I was off the mark there. emoticon
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Chris---


clear to me.

let's keep the action focused, like here:

Everyone is sick,
the heat and bad water of New Guinea.
Hiroyoshi has malaria, but flies everyday;
his uniform hangs down from weight loss
and the humid press of the jungle
surrounding our airfield

The lack of spare parts for our fighters,
the growing number of missing pilots
from our table in the mess tent.





He writes to his sweetheart,
then sets the paper aside.
We will soon fly again.


Overhead, short-waisted bitterns
wheel and fall
on the yellow canebrakes.




etc...


the japanese pilots were rarely relieved, the americans replaced human and other losses quickly, they suffered far less from illness and simple fatigue.


in the Battle of Britain, the german fighter planes were able to out turn, speed and shoot the allies, but Britain produced twice the number of aircraft each month as the nazis.

slowly, those factors overwhelmed both the germans and the japanese.

one american pilot, Major Bong, was our leading ace in the new guinea campaign, he was brought home and married Miss America.

the japanese pilots could barely manage a letter back home.



K---

hope that means i can call off the search for some misleading phrase in the posted poem regarding the number of pilots and poets.

all the best.


bernie






Last edited by 36064, Jan/1/2013, 8:17 pm
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


hope that means i can call off the search for some misleading phrase in the posted poem regarding the number of pilots and poets.

Were you really searching for such a phrase? I trust you would have never used it, and I hope I wouldn't have liked it if you had.

Come to think of it, I didn't really care what the sweetheart was wearing. I just wanted her to seem less incidental, and I focused on the dress as a possible angle for development because her dress and her hair were the only two details given about her. It's not that she is superficial or incidental though. It's that she's part of another life, another world far removed from the world the pilots are experiencing.

Also, if I'm honest, I have to admit I thought there was only one poet-pilot, the N, who was assigning poetic tendencies to the other pilot, who wasn't a poet, and that bothered me. I felt it was overly romantic in some way but didn't have the courage to say so.

I'm sorry, Bernie, my critique intentions were good; my actually critique wasn't.

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/2/2013, 7:56 am
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


K---

no problem.

i know what you mean about the superficial role of the girlfriend.

but for me, i just couldn't see how i could elbow her into the poem without reducing face time for the two males.

war factory work was too messy, her family too expansive; her views on....etc...

adding a detail about her clothes was a happy compromise.

i've replaced a major section of the 1943 portion of the poem, hope it is far more anchored now and focused---clearing up, i hope, those fragment blues. responding, i once again hope, to the concern raised by Chris.

this is a good reason, a good example of why poems should be reviewed by others.


thanks for stopping back.


bernie

Last edited by 36064, Jan/2/2013, 12:37 am
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Bernie,

Thank you for your patience. If you aren't sick of my comments on this poem, I'll venture a few more. I feel the addition may be too explanatory and can be streamlined. Not sure you need to mention the heat and bad water or weight loss directly. Perhaps something like:

Everyone is sick,
Hiroyoshi has malaria, but flies everyday;
his uniform hangs down
in the humid press of the jungle
surrounding our airfield.

It's a question of how much you think you need to tell the reader and how much can you assume s/he will know and/or can deduce from the descriptions/clues you give.

Did those zero fighter pilots really fly everyday with malaria? My God. I have a friend who is working on a presentation about the experience of the common soldier during the American Civil War, and one of the points he makes is that considerably more men died from illness than died from wounds received on the battlefield.

 

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/2/2013, 8:52 am
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


K---

thanks for hanging in; as for me, i never get tired of talking poetry with folks who love the art---my poem or theirs...

yes, everyday that fuel and spare parts made that possible; illness was a distraction, but little more.

think Valley Forge, the Civil War dead---most wars, i think. for japan, this was a war to save the country, not just to obtain a little territory or oil rights in a far off nation, but to preserve japan.


bernie
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


hi bernie

all the best for the new year!

the first line - should that be 'quietly'?

really dig hiroyoshi's poem!
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Hey Bernie,

By losing the dates and adding the first line of the poem, you've brought the sweetheart into the here and now of the poem and made her more substantial for this reader. I like this latest revision best of all. It doesn't feel fragmentary but shapely in a way that sketches out a full story. Nice job with the revision!

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/3/2013, 8:39 am
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


hi Bernie,

The current revision is my favorite too, very nice,

Chris
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Queenfisher---

particularly appreciated your comment about Hiroyoshi's poem, the poem within the poem.
cleared the typo and thanks very much for looking over this poem.


Katlin---

you've been there every step, can't thank you enough; it kept me looking at this poem when a part of me wanted to just chuck the whole thing and go hide for a while.

not my style, but....

 

Christine---

you spoke so clearly about this poem, i finally saw the path you were suggesting, you and K. saw the poem more clearly than myself.

great cooperation.

thanks to you all.


bernie

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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


Bernie,

I was impressed by the exchange between you and Katlin. I was not able to pursue it all to the end because I am just coming out of a bad cold. Coughing as I write this. I also did not complete a full going over the entire poem. Got maybe 2/3 of it done. Hope it helps. Just my thoughts on it, and they may or may not be valid. Look at it. Enjoyed it. Thanks for posting this.

Zak

Revision #1:

Hiroyoshi speaks quietly
of the girlfriend
he had four years ago;
she wore western clothes,
a dark velvet skirt
to the ankles suitable
for an orchestra and ballroom;
a severe jacket, an oversize brass
chrysanthemum at the lapel. [I’m left wondering if the narrator saw a photograph of this young woman. I doubt very much that Hiroyoshi would have described her in such detail to his friend. Also, the description “to the ankles” strikes me as a Western observation. We are aware of that demarcation because of the hemline going up and down over the decades: the Roaring Twenties, and so forth. Not sure a Japanese of that era would make that observation. To him, unless he came from a high class family – which he could have, being a pilot – and traveled to the West, he might not make that observation about the ankles.]

Hiroyoshi and I fly everyday,
my uniform hangs down like his
in the humid press of the jungle
surrounding our airfield. [Interesting binary you set up in S1 and S2 with civilian clothes and military uniform.]

Overhead, short-waisted bitterns
wheel and fall on the yellow
canebrakes. Any puff of wind
like steam off a kettle. [Last sentence very strong. Reminds me of Eliot’s, “like a patient etherized on a table” – no similarity in content but in boldness of the simile.]

We see the growing number
of empty chairs, pilots missing
from our mess tent. [This comes across as sentimental, but only because it is done so often. Maybe if you could inject some anger or resignation into it.]

He writes to his sweetheart,
then sets the paper aside.
We will soon fly again. [Don’t need the last line; you’ve already said “I fly everyday” in the first stanza.]

We withdraw from the new men,
rarely learn their names, [they are like phantasms of death stalking us because we know they will die, most of them]

Airborne,
he calls to alert me,

Sakai,

Sakai!

our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane disappears over
the soiled mass of Port Morseby.
  
In our tent, a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi
writes a poem:

High-up the seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals “go home.”
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base.
I set the fuel lever to “Lean” and edge the c ockpit screen open,
fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free in wind,
my only friend goes ahead and I follow rising on the incense
of chrysanthemum ash.
Jan/7/2013, 9:42 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Zero Fighter Pilots


hi Zak---

thanks and i agree.

Hiroyoshi speaks quietly
and shows a picture of his
girlfried; she wears western
clothes, a skirt to the ankles
suitable for a ballroom; He says
she often wore an oversized
brass chrysanthum at the lapel.

Hiroyoshi and I fly everyday,
my uniform hangs down like his
in the humid press of the jungle
surrounding our airfield.

Overhead, short-waisted bitterns
wheel and fall on the yellow
canebrakes. Any puff of wind
like steam off a kettle.

He writes to his sweetheart,
then sets the paper aside.

We withdraw from the new men,
rarely learn their names,

Airborne,
he calls to alert me,

Sakai,

Sakai!

our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane disappears over
the soiled mass of Port Morseby.
  
In our tent, a sleepwalking Hiroyoshi
writes a poem:

High-up the seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals “go home.”
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base.
I set the fuel lever to “Lean” and edge the c ockpit screen open,
fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free in wind,
my only friend goes ahead and I follow rising on the incense
of chrysanthemum ash.




thanks again.


bernie






---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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