It finally came down in a fracturing of wood and canvas
after a pursuit that had stretched across eternity;
and now the great red beast lay
far from silent, groaning with the pops and creaks
of a wounded animal,
a great crimson warbird with wings broken and lifeless.

He slumped forward slightly, as though
the weight of the war had finally become too much for
his slender shoulders; as if
he finally succumbed to the crushing weight of
the burdensleadership country family honor war
he had borne for so long –
face smashed by the machines with which he had slain countless others –
heart pierced by an enemy
he no longer believed he could defeat.

Was machten Sie, Manfred,
when you realized how far from home
you were –
when you dimly heard voices through the blood pounding in your skull
and realized that the last words you barely managed to force through battered lips
would be understood by no one?
Did you weep?
Did you grit your broken teeth in the agony of loss?

… or was your passing quieter?
A sudden stillness after the roar of battle:
that brief transcendent moment
when the world shushed, and
the universe stopped just for you,
drew you into a loving embrace –
and as the first of those strange English voices crowded around your 'plane
you were gone, with nothing more than a sigh.

My heart weeps for you, Manfred,
for how lonely it must be
to die without even being able to say good-bye –
but perhaps even in that death
you found release from a life which had become
too heavy to bear.