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Flight 609

by Mickey 

Posted: 03 February 2008
Word Count: 76

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They had names you could relate to,
Colman, Taylor, Edwards.
Names that you’d hear at pit-heads,
Whelan, Pegg, or Byrne
or up at t’mill,
like Jones or Bent.
Cloth cap names
who went to work on the bus
with their supporters.
Gentlemen players.
Two years the Champions.
Two false starts.
Third time lucky?
It wasn’t to be.
Innocent Babes
lost after drawing away
who will live in our hearts,
though their beloved game
has died forever.

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Comments by other Members

Mickey at 20:30 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
I've posted this in haste. It just came and I felt I had to write it. No doubt I could improve it after further consideration. It's different for me as it's all feeling and no rhyme. Think of them on Wednesday

joanie at 21:53 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
See! I knew you could do it! Brilliant.
it's all feeling and no rhyme
feels good, doesn't it? (and I do love rhyme)

I like the short lines and sentences, which seem to add to the sentiments, I think. You have conveyed the way one's mind flits from thought to thought.

I enjoyed the read, despite the subject matter.

Good one.


Elsie at 22:42 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
Hello Mickey
I like the no-rhyme approach! Is this a local football, or rugby perhaps? You said Wednesday - I wonder why... (I googled for Six Nations but that's the weekend.) Anyway I liked it.

joanie at 22:55 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
In case you thought it wasn't clear - I knew instantly that it was the Munich Air Disaster.


Elsie at 23:14 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
Ah - thanks Joanie. I was thinking a match - rather than a memorium.

Elsie at 23:15 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
Ah - should've read the title - shouldn't I!

Elsie at 23:17 on 03 February 2008  Report this post
It all makes perfect sense now.

V`yonne at 00:06 on 04 February 2008  Report this post
Oh, is Wednesday the anniversary?

I can think of only one improvement in the phrasing:

lost after drawing away

lost after being drawn away

it bite more in the passive and they had no control over their fate.

I loved your ending - full of feeling.

Mickey at 09:32 on 04 February 2008  Report this post
Thanks all,
I can’t connect a piece of writing like this with poetry. If it doesn’t rhyme it isn’t a poem for me (bit like an elephant has to be big and grey with a trunk!) Anyway, I’m glad you all liked it. There were two bits that I was particularly pleased with – the two references to ‘two’ (that stricken team had been Div 1 Champions for the preceding two seasons, and of course the crash occurred on the plane’s third attempt to get airborne) The opening references to the names of those who died is also a dig at the way the modern game has been debauched by money with team sheets reading more like the itineries for exotic world cruises. Oh yes, one final point in respect of V’yonne’s comment. The team were returning (50 years ago on Wednesday) after having drawn 3-3 in Belgrade, and I was trying to make a thought connection between the plane ‘drawing away’ on the snow-covered runway at Riem Airport, and the team earning a draw away from home.


PS to last point. The line runs on from the preceding sentiment - it was the team that were 'lost after drawing away' (Can't be that good if it needs such an in-depth translation! LOL!!!)

James Graham at 22:12 on 04 February 2008  Report this post
What's all this about 'if it doesn't rhyme it isn't a poem'? You've written a free verse poem, and it has strengths that your rhyming poems don't have. (Your rhyming poems have qualities this doesn't have - well, qualities you wouldn't expect of this one, as the tone of it is so different.)

One slight reservation I have about it is that it's a bit of an 'in-house' poem. That's not because it's about football - the Munich disaster is remembered by people who were never Man U fans or even interested in football. It's a tragedy that evokes sadness in us all, not least because it was one that surely could have been avoided. But from some of the comments above you can guess that some readers wouldn't get it and would need to have some aspects of the poem explained. You're right to be pleased with the lines about the names - anyone would appreciate the idea that the players were young men of the people, ordinary blokes who happened to have outstanding special skills. But if you mean the names to suggest an attack on the modern game, that's a point that might be lost on some. I wasn't sure what you meant by 'their beloved game has died forever', though I see it now. 'Lost after drawing away' - the double meaning at least - might be lost on some readers too. MU supporters would read this poem and nod their heads knowingly, able to decode it in every detail, but some of the meanings and associations would be more difficult for other readers.

Having said all that, I'll come back to the 'strengths' I was on about at the start. Even though some aspects of the meaning might be a bit obscure to the unenlightened, the fact remains that your free verse poem works in ways that poetry is meant to work. The names point in two directions, to the players themselves who are mourned, and to the 'debauchery ' of the modern game. These lines are elegaic but with a suggestion of polemic. The lines beginning with 'Two...' and the line 'lost after drawing away' have more than one level of meaning. 'Drawing away' is an excellent pun - there's even a touch of sad humour in this line. What all this adds up to is that you have made words do extra work, which is one of the basics of poetry, whether rhyming or free verse. I hope you'll try out this anarchic free verse mode again.


Mickey at 12:35 on 05 February 2008  Report this post

Thank you for your comments on my latest posting. I am a bit disappointed that the poem has given you the impression that it is an ‘in-house’ football poem, because that wasn’t the intention. In fact, I must come clean and say that I don’t support any club, nor did I know the names of any the lost team members other than Duncan Edwards and Roger Byrne. I had to research the facts for this piece.

The poem was in fact inspired by the Saturday Essay in last week’s Daily Mail entitled ‘The Day Decency Died’ in which the writer was taken ‘back to the glorious days before the beautiful game was corrupted by money, run by crooks, and played by overpaid sex-obsessed cheats’. I think the disaster, occurring not long before the abolition of footballers’ maximum wage restrictions, represents one of those watershed moments after which things were never the same. I always remember the story of Nobby Stiles travelling by bus to the 1966 World Cup games along with the fans.

The Munich Air Disaster (which I remember as a young lad) was one of those world-changing events (like the death of JFK, the moon landing, the Moors Murders, and 9/11) which I had assumed would be in the collective memory of the reader of the poem. A lot of my poetry alludes nostalgically to times past. I would happily admit to being one of TV’s ‘Grumpy Old Men’ (although I think that we are merely like the boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes who dares to see through the sham of conformity)

In my other recent piece about Cub Scouts I refer to ‘standards’ and to sheath knives for instance. As a child of seven in the late fifties I, like most other boys of my age, carried knives along with catapaults and pea-shooters – that’s what being a boy meant in those days (it wouldn’t even have occurred to us to use any of these as weapons of aggression). Compare that with the appalling situation where 27 – yes 27! – teenage boys were killed last year in London alone.

It was a comparison with this lost world of innocence that I was trying to capture in ‘Flight 609’ The ‘innocent Babes’ were mostly still living at home in their parents’ council houses rather than demolishing Listed national treasures to erect crass monuments to money and as testament to their complete lack of taste.

Anyway, thanks again for reading my poem and for your very encouraging comments – perhaps I will try free verse again!

James Graham at 19:56 on 05 February 2008  Report this post
The better I know the poem the more transparent it becomes. The 'in-house' thing is probably down to my ignorance of the kind of issues discussed in the Mail essay, and in that I'm probably in a minority. It's not the poem's fault. Your other example, of sheath knives and other boys' stuff in the fifties, proves a point. Here are references in a poem that readers under 40 might not pick up on so readily, but any one of thousands of good subjects for poetry might be the same - there's bound to be somebody who's less familiar with it than most, for whatever reason. There are famous poems which are far more 'in-house' than yours, e.g. The Waste Land with its references to Frazer's Golden Bough, quotes from Dante in the original, and bits of Sanskrit! There's an in-house poem if you like - or in-academic-cloister perhaps. It excludes many readers - that is, unless we are prepared to do a little research ourselves. All that's necessary to understand the background to your poem is to look up 'Munich air disaster' in Wikipedia, and give a little thought to what you're saying about corruption in modern sport. No it's not an 'in-house' poem - many readers would get to grips with it very quickly, and the rest should be able to catch up.

Re Grumpy Old Men - yes, we are like the boy who sees through the sham of conformity, and says so out loud.


J1mbo at 13:22 on 06 February 2008  Report this post
I really found this to be an interesting and emotive piece. It also uses the Munich disaster cleverly to evoke the imagery and end of a way of life that existed during Britain's industrial peaks.
The world is a very different place now, and for many reasons, this can be seen as a sad thing.

I really enjoyed this piece.


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