As part of a writing challenge I participated in last week, we were required to do a “cover” of a story, poem, television show, etc. I decided to do a cover of the poem “High Flight” written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a pilot during WWII.  The words of the poem have been italicized.

The world was silent around me. The perfect grace of quiet without remorse. My body was still and my eyes were closed. Someone moved, a soft shuffle of paper on a podium. A woman’s voice cut into the stillness with a gentle precision. She was reading my favorite poem.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

As she spoke, her voice rang out like clear church bells on a Sunday morning, crisp and powerful with her enunciation. I could hear music in her tone, but it filled me with sadness. And yet, I strained to hear more.

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

There were so many moments of joy. Dad’s hearty laugh as he tickled me mercilessly, Mom’s sweet smile that lit her entire face and my brother’s non-stop energy. The time my father slipped on the ice while we watched from inside the car, when my mother baked a pie without adding any sugar and when my brother would pester me mercilessly to play a game when all I wanted to do was read a book. The simple things that had passed by me unnoticed, now echoed through time to remind me of love.

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds … and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of

I’ve been blessed by adventure. Traveling to foreign countries, climbing large mountains, sailing upon oceans and lakes. The world was always open, waiting for my wandering soul. Each experience was a gift, a beautiful seashell buried in the sand. With a child’s gaze, I tried to take it all into my heart.

… wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

So many dreams made real and yet so much more to do. Did I travel enough? Did I love enough? I wondered at the frailty of our hearts that dared to push beyond what seemed possible.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

I am flying into the sky, moving away from the lovely tones of that voice. I am beyond the trees and can look down at the tips of their branches reaching for the sunlight. Up further into the clouds and above mountaintops until the earth is a small marble beneath me.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space

I dreamed of this once. My body moving up, I imagined what death might be like. Would I be cold? Would I yearn for the frame that sustained me for so long or would I be grateful to leave? Would I be missed?

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Lost in my thoughts, I found myself in a palace of light. Everywhere I looked there were mementos of my life, placed there by the hand of someone who had always loved me. In my imperfection, my need, my anger, my pain, always there even though I didn’t know. If I’d looked into my own heart, I would have seen it, I would have known.

It was then that I touched the face of God and my soul was at peace.


9 thoughts on “Flying

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