“The Lost Pilot” is a poem in free verse, its forty-eight lines divided into sixteen stanzas, each of which is three lines in length. The title, along with the dedication to the poet’s father (emphasizing the fact that the father died at the extremely young age of twenty-two), establishes a mood of loss both violent and tragic. The loss of a pilot suggests the loss of direction and control. The loss of a pilot/father foreshadows the great personal grief and bewilderment with which the poet will struggle throughout the length of the poem.
Appropriately, the poem is written in the first person, which allows great immediacy of emotion and brings the reader close to the intense and complex relationship of the poet to his lost father. The complexity of grief is at the very heart of the elegiac tradition in poetry, a tradition which seeks to reconcile the living to the reality of death. It is fitting, then, that this poem is addressed directly to the lost father, as only he can know the answers to those questions generated by his son’s feelings and bewilderment.
The poem begins with a startling declaration: “Your face did not rot/ like the others.” The sudden and shocking physical nature of this statement re-creates for the reader the emotional tenor of the pilot’s death and the son’s bereavement. It also characterizes the desperate tone of the elegy as the son seeks some consolation, however unlikely or grotesque. As the pilot died...
(The entire section is 489 words.)