Canto 73: Endgame

Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick & sad.
From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

Chief Joseph


Death March

Through these pale cold days
What dark faces burn
Out of three thousand years
Isaac Rosenburg

The stripes are march’d across the killing ground
Men call Eingost, strong shoulder’d Pharisees,
Tough Etta Grunfeld in despairs is drown’d,
Infelicific, fracking on nick knees;
Her Anna gasps
& tries to help, in vain,
“Keep moving!” grey guard rasps & blows out Etta’s brain.

Ragged, skeletal, stagg’ring, train
Lurches yon Yankee bomber,
Hungry as wolves, in constant pain,
As minutes last forever,
Wraiths in the wicked snow & rain
Tragedize together,
As defalcations rake the ill-condemn’d,
Snaking to what could only be their end.

From town-to-town two worlds collide,
Houses of ginger-bread
All warm inside, a mother cried
She’d witness’d children dead:
The Volk, at last, forced to account, truth cacodyllic spread.

Germany
February
1945


Iwo Jima

We are the little men grown huge with death.
Stolid in squads or grumbling on fatigues,
We held the honour of the regiment
Alun Lewis

A roar of morning shellfire shakes the seas,
Milters from Japan swarm ever-willing,
A whisper flaps unhappy on the breeze,
“Today is a good day for the killing;”
The oceans calm,
Beside an ashen isle,
Young soldiers sing a psalm along that final mile.

In swept each toughnut marine wave
To tread this rock volcanic,
Swarming for glory or the grave,
Went murdering mechanic,
Yard-after-yard their poor foes gave
With increasing panic,
The victory rose up for all to see,
The Stars & Stripes high on Surribaci!

Altho’ defeated, for Japan
Sons shall not surrender,
With loud elan each proud cave-man
Dies for his emperor,
Yes, dies a noble warrior, with loyalty & honour.

Iwo Jima
February 23rd
1945


Setting Sun

These are dead faces.
Wasps’ nests are not more wanly waxen
wood embers not so greyly ashen
Herbert Read

Eph’meral empire nears obsolescence,
The Towers of Tenshu straddle the sky,
As Tojo arrived for his audience
The pale moon sang a sunset lullaby;
Hurrying thro’
An iron-studded gate,
The evening hours, he knew, drew heavy with their fate.

Out of the southern, darkling sky
Silver Superfortresses,
Like eagles hunting from up high,
Rain’d doom upon the masses,
How many children have to die
Til their fury passe;
Tokyo like a paper lantern burns.
Of war’s true horrors the emperor learns.

As they watch’d the flames & flashes
To raging maelstrom fann’d,
Into ashes, stonework crashes
Tojo rais’d fisted hand,
“When sacred nations combat on they’ll heed honour’s demand!”

Mount Karvizawa
March 10th
1945


A Frightened Cow

A tight and chiming string
that resounds to anything—
a single stroke or evil blow
Ivan Vazov

Faerievolktown twinkles by Toder’s stream,
Some medieval El Dorado
Of handsome gates & cobblestreets, a dream
Of happy greetings each alborado;
Who’d ever thought
They’d bomb such an idyll –
Blare sirens! Cellars sought! Rilke grabs his fiddle

For to play a gentle ditty,
Children shuddering each thud
Of Ninth Air Force barbarity,
Murdering, they thought, for good,
Plundering with impunity
& sapping streets of blood,
Then back to base… emerging children ‘wow!’
As thro’ the Marketplatz storms frantic cow

With horrified, unhappy eyes
& burning at the tail,
Where cindersizing dragonflies
Flew thro’ the smoky trail,
When one-by-one, dewonder’d, kindergartens start to wail!

Rothenburg
March 31th
1945


Crossing the Rhine

he left that smell behind
it would barely linger by the time
he reached his destination
Emelihter Kihleng

As roofless, star-mark’d jeep screeches to halt,
Georgie spits out globule of cigar phlegm,
“Boys!” he address’d his American salt,
Find ’em, fix ’em, fight ’em & finish ’em!
An ounce of sweat
Worth a gallon of blood,
Always audacious, get to grips, give it ’em good!”

As generals love glory true,
The Third Army’s matador,
Instils LUCKY, his plucky crew,
With rampant passion for war,
The Third Army’s matador,
“Advance over, under or through!”
Reaching Remagen’s shore
A rail-bridge claim’d worth more than weight in gold,
Battles won by the brave, Wars by the bold.

Patton pauses upon the Rhine,
Perches on pontoon plate,
Arches his spine, piss flows like wine,
Hissing with pent-up hate…
Zips up his fly, claims th’eastern bank to slay the Kaiser-state.

Emmerich
April 2nd
1945


Empirical Regrets

But these paperbacks are crumbling in my hands
seachanged bouquets, each brown page
scribbled on, underlined & memorized
Michael Donaghy

‘Twas always weltmacht oder niedergang,’
Mus’d eminent attorney on the rocks
Above his bombshell mansion, where once sang
His sister princesses, him the princox;
Epiphany!
Dark mirror of mankind
Destroy’d poor Germany that decade he’d spent blind.

As we make our vows of substance
In the moments of defeat,
Let us never let the patterns
Of such diabol repeat,
Heed the laws of ancyent Athens,
Drag tyrants from the street,
Then string these up before them killers turn
Of little kids, burnt futures for the urn.

Tho’ wealthy, jewel-school’d, well-bred,
Just now he’d realiz’d,
& shook his head for all the dead,
Der Fuhrer recogniz’d
Not as his lord & saviour but a toad to be despis’d.

Leipzig
April
1945


White House

In America
The highway runs too fast
For men to feel the ground underneath
Femi Fatoba

The blood of good men stains Okinawa,
The President prepares to share their fate,
Into the air that soothes the state of Georgia
His life’s last breaths wheeze out with gremlin grate;
He coughs, complains
Of headaches terrible,
As mighty spirit drains… & bows & leaves battle.

Being flesh & mind a human
But in stature an oak tree,
Lampadephorian Truman
Homelands his Presidency,
The ultimate American
To rule thee sensibly –
& what a time to take that foremost seat;
The Axis Powers verging on defeat.

A heads-up held behind closed door,
“There’ll be a new weapon
Ready in four months,” sat in awe
(How else would one listen),
“If it saves lives… shortens the war… then say I… yes… go on.”

Washington
April 12th
1945


Death Camp

They turn the water off, so I live without water,
they build walls higher, so I live without treetops,
they paint the windows black, so I live without sunshine
JS Baca

If this is life then life should welcome death,
Thousands of abject shapes dull wraithdom tread,
Despair & typhus pungent on the breath,
Grey, ghastly heaps & gutters full of dead;
Bestarv’d of meat,
To stay his certain end,
A priest prepares to eat the dead flesh of his friend.

As one the rough guards up & leave
Just before GI’s arrive,
Whose haunted eyes could ne’er believe
Stick-like rakes are still alive,
All that these green lads could achieve
Was feed those who survive,
Strangurious skeletons; skin stretching
Thin; what moans… what spectres… & what retching.

As Anna show’d her slump’d nephew
To Carlton Dillinger,
All blotch’d & blue, “What can you do?”
“Mam, I ain’t no doctor…”
Ludwig spasm’d… died… cried she for all of them together.

Belsen
April 16th
1945


Hitler’s Birthday

The forests burn from Dresden as far as Berlin itself.
The earth is cracked as if in an inferno,
As if in an inferno the clay smoulders.
Semen Gudzenko

Entomb’d in the sad swansong of his time,
Arcanum Fuhrerbunker, quetzal claws,
As geocentric wolkenkuck-kuck-sheim,
Projects the acute virtues of his cause;
While strangers wage
The Wars he brought to Earth
In this Aegyptian cage they’ll celebrate his birth.

Tho’ across him hangs a shadow
He invokes the ‘Good old days,’
“For he’s a jolly good fellow!”
The sober jamboree raise,
Soon complexion yields to sallow,
By him but one soul stays…
His little siren, the lovely Miss Braun…
He orders scorched Earth policy by phone.

He exhales with the exstasi
Of fearsome syphilis,
“For without me this Germany
Must certainly perish…”
Outside the comfort of those rooms stretch’d bleak necropolis.

Berlin
April 20th
1945

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