Around five, when the Polish girl touches my elbow
to lead me downstairs to eat, the curtains ignite
like the shot-down Messerschmitt I saw;
struts exposed, ribs of a crackling corpse.
A hot turpentine wash as the drop-tank explodes;
the pilot dangles from his chute five fields away,
an exclamation mark punctuating the sky.
I assemble the memory. It comes in prefab parts
whose tapering extrusions grip the frame;
an Airfix kit I stick together, propeller, fuselage,
cannon. If my eyes could cope I’d find my old
darning tin, unravel a thread, hang the model,
tap it so it twists; evasive action. But cataracts
shrivel the world; residue flakes off a dry seam;
I see only the corpse of glue. Still, this evening,
when the sun crashes into room 209,
I teeter on the cockpit’s lip, bail out and
fly, leaving the shell to fry in kerosene.
Halfway from heaven, I watch the horizon
yaw and right itself, the silk dome fill.
The Polish girl screams, a plunging engine.