Tag Archives: Flight


by John Gillespie Magee

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter silvered
wings; sunward I’ve climbed and joined
the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds – –
and done a hundred things you have not
dreamed of – wheeled and soared and
swung high in the sunlit silence.

Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting
wind along, and flung my eager craft
through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept height with
easy grace where never lark, or even
eagle flew.

And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space
put out my hand, and touched the face of

John Gillespie Magee Jr. , A young American, flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force in England early in WWII, and was killed shortly after he composed this poem.



I have flown over the dinosaurs dying
through the ash of the meteors crashing

I have swam in the ice floes melting
I have eaten the first fish walking

I have felt the poles a shifting
in the magnets in my head

I have seen the white man and the red
I have seen the old wives dead

I have felt the pull of the settlers need
and tasted the poisons of their greed

I have heard the earth a groaning
I have felt the earth in pain

I have seen the Rainbow Warriors
dance the vision back again

And I fly and swim and wait
and pray they’re not too late



Within the greater urge
of man to soar and fly

It is not uncommon
that some may try and die

Salmon must return to spawn
birds must south and northward fly

The Buddha and the Christ
give focus to the martyr’s eye

The fault lies not
in these unalterable things

But in the material
with which he built the wings



You can know your native language
and still feel all alone
as pilots talk to pilots
in a code that’s all their own

Yet not even one to one
can they share that love of air
or touch the other’s feelings
of the fear and beauty there

Sailors talk to sailors
of wind and sail and rope
of nights upon the ocean
of courage and of hope

Yet the words just can’t convey
their love of sea and air
nor touch the other’s feelings
of the fear and beauty there

And though cowboys talk to cowboys
in a special kind of drawl
there’s still a space between them
the words can’t tell at all

Not those nights of cold and stars
with coyotes on the air
nor the call of open spaces
with the fear and beauty there

Watch as lovers talk to lovers
in ways only two can share
as they build between them
a framework light and fair

While a web that’s spun of maybes
hangs so fragile in the air
that one false word can shatter
into pain, the beauty there

And yet

There are still some crazy poets
out riding hatless in the sun
still trying to do the very thing
we all know can’t be done

Still Quixoting for a language
that can speak to everyone



Clouds are a part of living
and if you fly, a big part of staying alive

I remember an airport and the sky closing behind me
a brand new pilot’s license and no instrument time
a terrible, deadly, damn fool policy
I hope they’ve changed it

I had a few lessons from my brother
he told me about believing the instruments

Of course I didn’t really, actually, believe them
but I did follow the one that said “we’re right side up”

When my inner ear said; “you’re not,” “turn,” “turn or die”

And I throttled back and let the plane sink into the dark
we might land or hit something at less than full speed
and then there was a little space and a little light
and a landmark, and the lost ground was found

And the time flying from Calgary to Salt Lake
with two cloud layers twenty feet apart
and the big twin flying V.F.R. between
and the feeling in my heart

But the best is a grey cloudy day
when the whole world is too sad to play
and old mother nature seems to wring out her mop
and you have a little courage and you know

That there’s no place like the light
when you break out on top



Heading west for stampede city
doing two miles a minute through air
with a Chinook pouring over the mountains
and a rising feeling that you’ll never get there

You’re going slower and slower
over the rough wind swept ground
and you don’t want to land in that field
and of course, you don’t dare turn around

The needle and your knees
are all three on empty, knocking
and if you had a car, you’d pull over
get out the old can, and start walking

But you’ve made it, you land, and you park
and you know there’s someone you’ve got to thank
when the boys put thirty two gallons
in your thirty two gallon tank



It was first solo cross country night
with all the fears of those new at flight

But the full winter moon lit a chess-board
of snow covered stubble and black fallow fields
and small creeks, winding east, from the mountains

All of the fears into the liquid moonlight melted
while flared nerves stayed open to the beauty

And the Cessna ran smooth at five thousand feet
I couldn’t have been higher, at fifty