On the Crash of an Airliner at Takeoff

By Calvin Thomas Jr. Calvin Thomas
When bodies broken and all bodies seared
Are counted up, uncrusted, tagged as feared,
We know next day the scene will stand alone
On pages white and mindless of the bone.
Shall notice recognize beyond the burned,
Or caption past the people tritely charred,
Related dusty partness with the term
Antiquity, the sense of death in stone
And knowledge of the previously marred?

On battlefields of Troy or Tuscany
Or other places where techniques engaged,
When warrior fell, or blade or boy enraged,
Of them did campfire journalists of song
Forget collective going, all but pathos,
In wretchedness and fact of having gone?
Accuse the gnostic grammar of old wars:
It maims our grasp of accidental death
Past putting down of papers to decry
Their overlooking what it means to die.

Calvin Thomas, Jr., "On the Crash of an Airliner at Takeoff" from Botteghe Oscure XVI (Autumn 1955). Copyright © 1955 by Calvin Thomas, Jr..  Reprinted by permission of Calvin Thomas, Jr..

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Poet Calvin Thomas Jr.

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries


Calvin Thomas Jr. was a promising young poet at Yale when, during the summer of his sophomore year, he attended John Crowe Ransom’s summer school at Kenyon College. There he met influential New Critics like Allen Tate, Mark Shorer, and Yvor Winters, who would later become a mentor. He graduated from Yale in 1951, joined the Air Force, and was sent to Germany. His story “The Comeback,” which sprang from his experience . . .

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SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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