1939 or ’40,
Western Districts probably,
a palimpsest of roads and farms
as written by surveyors,
a landscape patched and pieced.
Above it now, the Wirraways
a flight of them, in V-formation,
though only four are shown,
the perspex cabins open.
Each man, one behind the other,
leather helmets, goggles raised,
is glancing sideways for the camera,
the pilot and his number 2,
the prop in front of them not quite
invisible with speed.
The planes all have their numbers and
the new insignia,
red/white/blue concentric rings
reduced to monochrome.
The pilots and their trainees both
wear everyday expressions.
They know the shifting shape of Europe,
the Cinesound reviews,
the headlines in The Age or Argus
but not where they’ll be fitting.
Here, down south, it’s week by week,
the bumps and grinds, the dodgy crosswinds,
the soaring Pratt & Whitney engine’s
They know, of course, it’s just a trainer,
spruced by Lawrence Wackett from
The shift to bigger, faster craft,
heavier with cannon fire
and flame for Germany,
will be their business in good time.
The clouds are high and serried
with a vanished sort of beauty,
as if in black-and-white already.
Today’s a day for practice only:
for reading charts, for better landings,
for checking every dial and needle,
for not imagining too hard
the heights that lie ahead.