Saturday, May 28, 2005

Journal of an Airman



I.

three signs of an airman:
practical jokes
nervousness before taking off
rapid healing after injury

three kinds of enemy walk:
the grandious stunt
the melancholic stagger
the paranoic sidle

three kinds of enemy bearing:
the condor's stoop
the toad's stupor
the robin's stance

three kinds of enemy face:
the fucked hen
the favorite puss
the stone-in-the-rain

three terms of enemy speech:
I mean
quite frankly
speaking as a scientist etcetera

three enemy questions:
am I boring you?
could you tell me the time?
are you sure you're fit enough?

three results of an enemy victory:
impotence
cancer
paralysis

three counterattacks
complete mastery of the air

lastly but ten it's moving again
lastly but nine I forgot the sign
lastly but eight it's getting late
lastly but seven why aren't there eleven?
lastly but six I dont like its ...tricks

the maid is just dribbling tea
and I shall not be disturbed until supper
I shall be quite alone in this room
free to think of you if I choose
and believe me dear I do choose

for a long time now I've been aware
that you are taking up more of my life every day
but I'm always being surprised
to find how far this has gone

it's getting late
and I have to be up at times(?) in the morning
you're so quiet these days that I get quite nervous.
remove the dressing:
no, I'm safe, you're still there.

the wireless this evening says that the frost is coming
and when it does we know what to expect, don't we?
but I'm calm, I can wait.
the surgeon was dead right:
nothing will ever part us.
goodnight and god bless you my dear.

better burn this.

lastly but five oh god it's alive
lastly but four I can't live any more
lastly but three now it's looking at me
lastly but two what shall I do?
lastly but one I think I'll run
lastly of all it's here and I fall(?)

August the 23rd, 3pm:
we are lost.

a cart has just passed carrying the plaster eagle
the enemy are going to attack.

G.H.Q. commands:
1. that the attack take place on August 28th
first penetration of the hostile position 7:10am
2. a fake landing by pleasure--paddle-steamers
near the bathing-machines on beach 5
3. a main frontal attack:
divisions to be concentrated in the Shenley(?)
brickfields and moved forward to the battle-zone in
bakers' vans disguished as nuns

First day of mobilization:
at the prearranged zero hour
the widow bent into a hoop with arthritis
gives the signal for attack
by unbending on the steps of St. Philips

Fifth day:
pressure of ice, falling fire (???)
the last snarl of families beneath the toppling column
biting at wounds as the sutures tear (?)

Twenty-fourth:
four days.
what's the use of counting them now?

ah, what have I written?!
thoughts suitable to a sanitorium!
three days to break a lifetime's pride

Twenty-eighth:
3.40 am
pulse and reflexes: normal
barametric reading: 30.6
mean temperature: 30 F
fair
some cumulus cloud at 10,000 ft.
wind: easterly and moderate
hands: in perfect order

from here
W.H.Auden and Gerard Langley
from the album Tolerance by the Blue Aeroplanes, 1987

UPDATE:
Courtesy of ericb, who replied to my question at AskMetafilter, here are some extracts from Audens original at the interesting looking maisonneuve.
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