Dennis Maulsby

FROST ON THE GUNSIGHT

My wife shouts from the white columned porch,
“Get out of the barn and get cleaned up,
the grandkids are coming.”
Hmm, they’ll want stories… which one?

Through a dusty cracked window I see
the backs of red-brown cattle,
rows of rusted machinery,
and stretched fields solid with wheat.
The sky, blue to dark blue, with high, fast moving clouds . . .

Perhaps, about the War,
spent hundreds of hours over Germany,
above its alien clouds,
my mind in harmony with the engines’ vibrating hum.
Blunt-nosed P-47’s and shark-sleek P-51’s
“little friends,” covered us — most of the time.

Dressed in shearling head to foot,
I tended a B-17’s tail guns,
my breath frosted the gun sight
as Messerschmitts and Folcke-wulfs made their runs.

The earphones full of chatter and shout:,
“look… six… on our six… get him… get… son’a bitch… “
Fifty caliber cartridge cases rattled on the floor,
background to the “ping” and “tung” of 20mm shells hitting aluminum.
When the fighters left,
gray-black flak bursts made rough air,
pushed and jerked the shuddering plane.

The clink of spent shrapnel on the hull
reminded me of that time in the hayloft.
Dakota rain and hail pelted the tin roof,
while Janey and I lay wrapped in blankets,
her farm girl breasts and hips pressed against me.

Two years later, me in England,
she at home with a red patterned scarf tied tight,
raising chickens for GI rations,
while our toddler chased calico kittens in the barn.

Once a stick of bombs got caught in the racks —
we couldn’t land that way.
I hung on the bomb bay doors,
watched the patchwork countryside from 10,000 feet,
and released the bombs with a wrench.
I think we blew up some enemy outhouses that day.

We were shot to pieces on our tenth mission.
John, Harv and I got out —
Captain Bill, Sergeant Willis, Chuck, Spud
and the rest rode her down.

Harv’s chute never opened,
we watched him disappear, never found him.
I like to think of his bones at rest in an orchard,
every Spring covered with blossoms.

John and I landed.
German peasants waited with farm tools,
killed him, and pitchforked me,
my blood and his mingled on the tines.
I was saved by a Luftwaffe officer.

Another shout from the house,
“Homer, get in here and change your clothes,
they’re pulling in the driveway.”
“Okay, Janey.”
Don’t think I’ll tell ‘em this story.
Not yet… not yet.