Emptied of their blunt warplanes
Ten Quonset-style hangars remain,
Humped and aged at parade rest,
Not far from the Pacific to the west;
Bright white in the California sun
Decades after the war was won;
The huge doorways gape, gulp wind and rain;
"For lease," signs of realtors proclaim.
Sculpted long ago with slender trees,
Softly-rounded hills and curved roadways,
The handsome face of the complex aged
As the waging of air warfare changed;
Buildings collapsed, personnel levels waned;
Toxic chemicals and cleanup costs detained
Bargainers and prospects faded;
But profits for developers persuaded
Town fathers and the Pentagon to sign a pact,
Forged after a half-century to be exact.
Participants had differing dreams
Colored in various shades of green:
For land barons dollars sweetened the deal;
Naturalists were swayed by wetlands appeal.
Drastic surgery has taken place
To alter the airfield's former face:
The simple barracks where warriors slept,
Poker hands played out and dreams were kept
And communicated in letters home, and deft
Athletes contested in fields around
In noisy ball games on dusty ground;
All have vanished in time's decay,
Like many who fought in that worldwide fray.
Today pricey houses of stucco endure,
With tiled roofs of Spanish architecture.
Cracked runways still split the scene,
Skirting parking spaces for war machines
Helter-skelter; covered by piles
Of strategically-placed rocks and soil
To discourage amateur air traffic again.
Still the occasional dare-devil glides in
Over the brooding runways, engines quiet,
In a display of piloting defiance,
Before throttling to evade the stony crowns,
Scant feet short of shattering touch-downs.
Gone are the deer of this plain for planes,
Cropping for delights of fruits and grains,
Savoring sweet grass and pure air;
Bucks seeking does, their ladies fair.
From where they roved, sentinels on patrol,
Hugging the rugged ridges of Novato,
Bustling humanity forced them to other terrain,
Though wispy traces of pathways remain;
Switch-backing slopes they trod to gain
Access to slopes where fawns have lain.
Winding away, silent is a roadbed for trains,
Rails a rusting, double stain
Spiked to ties in splinters, soft,
Where locomotives no longer cough
Along a smoky right-of-way,
Carved into the shores of San Pablo Bay.
Behind bottle-shaped trees of palm
Gracing it in an aura of calm,
A windowless, gaunt control tower looms
With ghostly, stripped equipment rooms.
Running away in the long, slim line
Is a modern seawall devoid of brine,
Built to dam a future flow
To flood extant asphalt rows,
Where aircraft perched like fearsome birds,
Chirped into life and were widely heard
As they roared and soared over knolls,
Into the sky with young hands at controls.