"I'll come back for you" by Sanka Rathnabarana
The smell of her skin parched on his body, Over the bullet wounds that hold his tattered memories.
She waits in the alleyways of Paris,
looking up to the sky — every time a plane passes by.
The young boy beside her follows her gaze, unaware.
Time has undoubtedly slipped past, parting hearts.
He left home seeking an end to the violence
Never expecting to find love in an unknown land
Chosen to lead an elite group of fighting pilots.
A few bold souls in Nieuport 11’s crusading
Against those mighty German zeppelins.
They locked antlers amidst the grey clouds
Jousting bullets mid-flight,
Her voice ringing in his head, amidst the flutter of the engine
“I’m afraid you’ll die.”
He watches helplessly as his mates go down
— in a trail of smoke
He whispers in the wind
I’ll be back for you, I promise.”
A solemn oath he could never keep
His hiraeth to return to Paris was fierce,
To find her and hope that somewhere down those alleyways,
She’s waiting desperately for him.
He searched endlessly, but he never found her
With nothing to go on, he returns home
To a ranch a thousand miles away
The smell of her skin parched on his body,
Over the bullet wounds that hold his tattered memories.
The world sleeps as he meets her in his dreams.
Her tired eyes open slightly,
“Can I be close to you for a moment
and if I can’t.
I’ll see you again in heaven, Lucienne.”
She closes her tired eyes.
This piece was inspired by the movie “Flyboys,” which depicts a group of young Americans who volunteered to join the Lafayette Escadrille (French Air Service, L’Aéronautique Militaire) during World War I. A truly nostalgic and beautiful film which I thought captured the theme of hiraeth.
This piece was selected for the Hiraeth Anthology of Literary Impulse conducted in October 2020. Read the other pieces here.