It was the model spitfire in your front room window
That identified you, separated you from that tribe,
We call ‘the old’.
I saw you sometimes at the shops, your movements slow, deliberate,
Arthritic, I thought, I was wrong.
You carried a basket, the old-fashioned clumpy kind.
And you were always glancing behind you. I thought it was the traffic
You feared, but it was the Messerschmit ME 262 that still had you in its sights.
Frank, you were too tough with the kids who gathered,
Smoking, talking, laughing, outside your front door of an evening.
They were only young. Though I expect
You had forgotten the mess and all that false machismo-bonhomie
You shared before a raid.
At your funeral, I sat at the back, you had few family,
No kin left alive. I think of your skin,
Safe inside the coffin, now
No longer agony to move
You told me once it took you two hours to get dressed.
The image of the naked Vietnamese girl fleeing napalm
Mixed up with your burning descent through the air above
The South Downs, I whisper my thanks to you, old friend.