The next part of the sequence takes us into the realm of absurdity.
We discover the stone which the boy kicked into the gutter is the gall stone of a dead
fighter-pilot. This detail is
unknown to the boy in the same way that we miss so many of life’s connections.
Like the football team did, the pilot has status and significance. He returns from a mission and is unable to find his base at
Leuchars. Like the football team, it is as if the town has faded or disappeared. The local hills, the
Sidlaws, are also obscured beneath
their great black tarpaulin.
As day breaks and the fog disappears, Paterson returns to an image of ancient gods:
...Venus melt into Carnoustie, igniting / the shoreline...
The image of the planet Venus, and by suggestion the goddess of beauty, fades to be replaced by the much more mundane town of Carnoustie. And the word
igniting foreshadows the fiery end to the pilot and plane.
Paterson goes on to describe ideal flying conditions. This could suggest the pilot is at his
zenith, like the football team.
But as with the team, this glorious moment cannot last. With a twist of irony, the perfect conditions cannot prevent his engine giving up:
...sending him silently / twirling away like an ash-key...
The fragility and insignificance of an ash-key makes this an apt simile. It stresses that the pilot has no control as he spirals to the ground. Possibly this idea can be widened to reflect the futility of all human endeavour.
There is tragic situational irony in the fact that he could have survived if his parachute hadn't been removed as a prank. In its place
a flurry of socks rise into the air
like a sackful of doves.
Doves suggest beauty and peace without the word
sackful, which implies something cumbersome, even suffocating. The image echoes the earlier
plague of grey bonnets thrown in the air at the football game.
Throughout this verse the tone is humorous, even flippant:
...He caught up with the plane / on the ground...
The idea that he caught up with the plane sounds positive, although the result is destructive:
...the tank blew/ and made nothing of him...
What is left is a list of meaningless items – again there is irony in his
lucky half-crown. The pilot has been reduced to a gallstone caught in the bars of a
Again the off-hand clichéd tone of the last line allows us to almost dismiss this tragic event along with the narrator. After all, this is what life is: irony after irony and ultimately meaningless.
But Paterson does not end it there.
In short, this is where you get off, reader...
A final stanza addresses the reader directly and gives the poem another ending. Paterson makes us step back from the stories he has told, as if making clear they are invention. He marks a separation, as the reader goes on with their own life, and Paterson continues with his theme and thoughts.
He talks of
failing light and a path that
steadily fades. Even he seems to lose his train of thought, distracted by a random list of other concerns:
...road-repairs, birdsong, the weather, nirvana...
The concept of
nirvana (meaning "blown out") and suggests a state of peace, with the fires of emotion being put out. This continues the idea of human effort and suffering becoming lost and a forgotten part of the wider world.
Paterson's final lines bring the poem, and the collection it was published in, to an end:
...the plot thinning down to a point so refined/ not even the angels could dance on it. Goodbye.
It is clear that poet and reader have shared moments of experience, but that their time together is over. The suggestion is that no matter how meaningful a connection, it will eventually fade and be forgotten. The
Goodbye brings a very final close.