The Windrush runs through field and village
before it becomes the Thames. Clear water
with waving weeds, minnows, sticklebacks;
and where it bends, boys, swimming, splashing,
floating on their backs, diving off the bank.
That’s where I learnt to swim, a frantic
doggy-paddle that just kept me buoyant
and lifted my feet from the stones at the bottom.
That summer we lay on the bank and let the sun
dry us off. We heard, one glorious afternoon,
the grumbling engines of a plane, very low.
A Flying Fortress lumbered into view,
enormous with jagged holes in its fuselage,
staggering through the air, just above the willows.
I saw blue through gaps in the wings.
Amazed, frightened, we jumped to our feet and waved,
as if our frantic waving could keep him airborne.
And the man (we could see his face),
as he steered his wreck with hopes of reaching an airfield,
waved back at the naked boys on the Windrush bank.
from A Good Time (Smith/Doorstop, 2010) , © Gerard Benson 2010, used by permission of the author.