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Poem: "A Turning Point in the Clockwork War" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Turning Point in the Clockwork War"

This poem came out of a conversation with viva_la_topknot and some other folks about handicapped characters in comic books and other contexts.  We got to talking about how handicapped characters are usually not frontline combatants.  But what if they were ...?  And so began the Clockwork War series, of which this is the first poem, sponsored here by viva_la_topknot.

Note: Several of my readers pointed out the similarity to the historic figure Douglas Bader. I didn't know about him when I wrote this poem, but the parallels are striking.

A Turning Point in the Clockwork War

A war of attrition
depends on supply and drawdown,
how much you have and how much you use up.
With personnel, the balance concerns
the influx of recruitment versus
the outflow of casualties, deserters, invalids.
There is only so much loss
that a fighting force can sustain
and still fight.

Pilot Claude Archer was the first
to challenge his invalid discharge.
"I don't need legs to fly," he said,
patting the healed stumps of his thighs.
"My Osprey runs on elbow grease."

The members of the discharge board
paused and looked at each other.
What he said was true. 
The Osprey-class fighter jets
relied on hand controls,
and a sharp eye and iron nerve.

Fingers flicked through the stack
of discharge papers -- so many, many pages.
So many soldiers lost, never to fight again.
They could not afford to let slip even one
who might be retained, somehow,
to face the front line once more.
Far less could the war effort spare
one of its best pilots.

So they put Pilot Archer back on the roster,
and he set about making the adjustments.
He spent hours in the simulator, relearning
balance and shift and control.
Arms honed from flying the Osprey
made short work of the wheelchair,
and he made his morning laps in a whir of spokes.
On the weekend, he chucked the chair by a bench
and dragged himself through the obstacle course
hand-over-hand and belly-crawl and roll.

When the botflies attacked in mechanized swarms,
their flight giving off an evil whine,
Pilot Archer rose on wings of stern blued steel
and shot them down in a rain of white-hot debris.

The ground crew held him on their shoulders
while he stenciled a row of fresh silhouettes
onto the Osprey's fuselage
with his strong, rock-steady hands.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

13 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
msminlr From: msminlr Date: August 3rd, 2011 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Douglas Bader was in the RAF before and during WWII.
Insisted on re-learning to fly with an artificial leg.
Got shot down again, and captured, POW-camped, and he escaped, Leg and all.
Got caught again, though, and landed in Colditz, the 'maximum security' POW camp for incorrigible escapers.
Used his [hollow] artificial leg to help smuggle-out dirt from a tunneling project.
Successful escapes from Colditz, though, involved more climbing than the Leg could manage, given the technology of the times, so he spent the rest of the war there, giving the guards fits with his wicked Brit sense of humor.
From: siliconshaman Date: August 3rd, 2011 10:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Legs.. He lost both of them. [ wikiattack! ]
msminlr From: msminlr Date: August 3rd, 2011 10:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Right. One below the knee; one just-above.
I went and Googled him this morning.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 10th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I appreciate that reference, and I've added it to the post above.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
awesome, love it!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad to hear that.
eseme From: eseme Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that last verse is just wonderful. I love that image.
unmutual From: unmutual Date: August 3rd, 2011 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Teamwork can be a beautiful thing. It's also one of the ways that soldiers express affection and respect.
viva_la_topknot From: viva_la_topknot Date: August 3rd, 2011 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)

So happy to see this posted where everyone can read it. You're really working hard tonight!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad it got sponsored to share.

Yeah, the Poetry Fishbowl went wild. I worked from 1 PM to 5 AM, minus a couple hours for breaks.
zianuray From: zianuray Date: August 3rd, 2011 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)
See (hear) Cripples' Shield-Wall on the Leslie Fish / Joe Bethancourt album, Serious Steel, if you haven't already.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 3rd, 2011 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)


That was in the original discussion, and I love the song. An unmarred hero might or might not be a serious threat. But dude, if you see a handicapped hero coming at you, just turn and run the other way, because nothing is going to stop that one.
13 comments or Leave a comment