Bill Greenwell

Bill Greenwell: Featured Poet

Air Force

Oh you were perfect, a perfect
helminth, they said. They had words for you, words
with you, a whole string of indignant nouns.

And all because of the day, windless and bright,
that they lined you up like a squadron
of roses and tulips, in bloom

for the photographer under his prayer-shawl,
flash-gun up like a ping-pong paddle
guiding in nervous flight crews.

Just before the powder blew
you mussed your hair up, because you could,
because you were born

with a rebel heart. Look at the picture.
I do. Under the prim and cloudless sky, of all the attentive faces,
I can only pick out one: yours.


Bill Greenwell is a poet and parodist, and the Arts Staff Tutor for the Open University in the North. He’s from Sunderland, was New Statesman’s satirical writer in the nineties, and is one of the OU’s creative writing team. He has two sites: and He was born in 1952, and his collection Impossible Objects is published by Cinnamon.

5 thoughts on “Bill Greenwell: Featured Poet”

  1. This poem feels JUST RIGHT to me, dear Bill 🙂 . I want to call it perfect. It feels perfect to me. I love the character you portray and I love the spirit of the character – and of the poem. Thank you.

  2. I had to look up the word “helminth” first and scratch my head for a moment. Then realised the importance of “And all because of….” and now have fallen head over heels for this great poem, tender and funny. Love it and your handsome photo. Love becky

  3. I seem to have missed this last week – a great poem Bill. I learned a new word in helminth. It really does sound like the name of a military plane too.


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