Hello, helo

Helicopter passing low above the sleeping streets,
Twin rotors chop the darkness into tumbling chunks of noise.
Where do you come from? No one knows. Your swash of sound retreats
Into the night, a mystery ship. Where are you heading, boys?
To barracks down on Salisbury Plain? Or out on exercise?
Are you weighed down with men and gear, or empty? What’s the plan
You’re part of: will your mission whirl you from these friendly skies
To sweat the bullet-spitting badlands of Afghanistan?
Fat men in suits on their hind legs in Westminster will claim
Your presence in those dusty wastes protects us from attack.
But I’m not asking you to go: you’re not there in my name.
So if you’re flying out tonight, pray God you’ll all come back.


Most nights now, at least one big, green, tandem-rotor Chinook helicopter goes whop-whop-whopping low over the town. The Chinook fleet is based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, so the westbound ones are probably heading home – but from where? And what about the ones flying east? Got me thinking…

5 thoughts on “Hello, helo

  1. Hi Nick
    those helicopters make such a mysterious sound. For many years, the beach on the island here was bombed during trainings by NATO, lot of noise too. But needed. As long as there is trouble in the world, military stuff will be there. I like the poem, and the end is moving.

    • My mother-in-law’s house in deepest Wales is regularly shaken to its foundations by RAF Hawk jets, which fly low-level training missions over the area. And at Cape Wrath, the most northerly tip of the British mainland, there’s a big rock they use for bombing practice. They have to do this stuff somewhere, I suppose, but wouldn’t it be nice if they didn;t have to do it at all? Too much to hope, I suspect. N.

  2. Your line “But I’m not asking you to go: you’re not there in my name.” captures my sentiment about sending young men and woment ot such places in order to support corporate needs.

  3. Nick, my father fought in Africa through Germany in World War II, including, I believe, at Anzio Beach in Italy. I wonder why we have to go to war, as slpmartin says, for corporate interests that are not in my interest at all. Still, I think of my young father who came back from the war unwilling to even mention it to his sons when I see military men or women or their helicopters, planes, and other equipment, and I hope, like you, that they will return. This is a moving poem, Nick. A truly moving poem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.