Robert Etty

Planes Flying Over

In my aircraft phase I’d lie on my back
in the neighbours’ dandeliony grass
(we shared a path between our gardens)
and scour skies the blues of Humbrol paint lids
for the floating delta or quick, silver cross
of a Meteor, Javelin, Canberra, Lightning,
any V-bomber or anything else
on the flightpath to or from RAF Binbrook,
which even by country bus wasn’t far.

Often in summer after a meal
my dad would come down without his jacket,
bringing some stale crust or bacon rind,
and sit on the bench against the nest box
and watch his black hens in the run.  He’d say,
‘Never mind aeroplanes – chuck some bread in,’
and break me a piece to slot through the wire,
and the hens would scuttle over and peck it,
fling it into the air and bicker.
I’d lean beside him and feel his warm shirt
and join in watching the hens.  When they’d gulped down
the bread or rind they’d go back to scratting
at the bald earth, scraping for worms or shoots
that weren’t there, stabbing between their claws.

Their squawks, clucks and warbles explained, if we
listened, the pointlessness of searching again,
and apologised, but they couldn’t help it.
I’m listening now, and they’re still explaining
how these days you need to keep doing and trying
because if you stop there’ll be nothing.
There they are, under a wide sky near Binbrook,
scratting the same few square yards.



Robert Etty lives in Lincolnshire. His latest collections are A Hook in the Milk Shed and Passing the Story Down the Line (both Shoestring Press).