Canto 79: Changing Age

 If I am a good American it is only because America brought me up to be a good American

Lt. George Coker


A Game of Ten-Pin

Turning my face to the north, I worked a wonder,
I made the countries of furthest Asia come
Bearing all their tribute on their back
Hymn of Amun

The Warsaw Pact has drawn the battle- lines,
America looks ‘underneath the bed,’
Searching for proof of KGB designs,
From now on anyone could be a Red!
Pledging belief,
Witchfinders bind the air,
Negrodom breathes relief, the hate channel’d elsewhere.

“Have fun!” call’d Maggie Dillinger
To her husband & his pal,
Coolest Choctaw from Croatia,
Porter down the hospital,
Boys high-five the happy driver –
The chubby-cheek’d Big Al –
Together them went roaring off to bowl,
The nickels toss’d, their team sheet pins the wall…

All was ultra-jingoism,
They shouted Ivan’s name,
Communism, lib’ralism,
Perhaps they’re just the same,
They bann’d him from the bowling club before he’d play’d a game.

Jerkwater
1958


Capturing Eichmann

Now I am tired.
I would be left to sleep in the quiet dark
down the soft years to heal me here alone
Clive Turnbull

The modern world from violent spasms born,
Of all those scars one taunts us like a ghost,
Forever by one sordid word world-known,
The horror-swarm’d unholy ‘Holocaust;’
Deck’d with virtue
Of good Sir Galahad,
To Argentina flew a crew of young Mossad.

They found him living out his life,
Gutter’d below his station;
A nothing job, a plain, old wife,
Meaninglessly suburban;
A quiet street, as sharp as knife,
Men pounced upon Eichmann,
He was the modicum of modesty
Admitting, there, his true identity.

Nervously shaking, coffee spilt
Upon the hotel bed,
Tho’ weigh’d with guilt voice did not wilt
While naked truths were said;
But even he could not explain why all those Jews were dead.

Buenos Aires
1960


The Spread Of Fear

But I shall not compare today with yesterday.
We, people, can get used to everything.
But the battlefield was too terrible
Konstantin Simonov

While Kruschev builds missiles like butchers
Produce their sausage strings, a stag arose,
Fate’s button in democratic clutches,
Such missile-gap young Kennedy shall close;
Whose precise tracks
Across the world shall fly
In nuclear attacks…. nigh ev’ry one must die.

Maria never read the news,
She found it too depressing,
Preffer’d, instead, her bedroom views
& Mother Mary’s blessing,
Luigi, tho’, loved to peruse,
Thro’ the Cold War chessing,
“Mama!” he said, “The Yanks are coming here…”
Feeding her goats she feign’d she did not hear.

But when she saw those silos grand,
Grew, she, ten years older,
Sensing the hand of doomsday land
Hard upon her shoulder
“My son,” she sigh’d, “He’ll die so young...” just as he
had told her.

Gioia del Colle
1961


Space Race

another crucial step
along the path of human development
I thought to myself
Billy Collins

Chairmen Kruschev of the Russian redoubt
Denounces Stalin & his murd’rous ways,
The graves at Katyn slowly hollow’d out,
He launches a new programme to amaze;
Some Hebrew ark
Beyond the clouds shall race
Into the unknown dark of ever vapid space.

Up first went the spiky Sputnik
Surfing spheres on easy glide
Next up the wonderful Lunik
Photographs the Moon’s dark side,
Man’s ancestral illusion pricks
& dreams of cheese have died
A copy of the pennant of the hour
Handed, so smugly, to Eisenhower.

Human representative sought
To fly the first mission,
Cool Cosmonaut, Yuri afloat,
Our blue orb cyrean
Never seen so beautiful by Man’s expanding
vision.

Earth’s orbit
1961


Bay of Pigs

I know, of course, that straight counsel brings calamity,
But persevere, & cannot give it up.
I appoint the Nine Heavens as my witnesses
Ch’u Yuan

“Fidel Castro,” exclaim’d the CIA,
“Must be dethron’d, let’s train his exiled forces
& land them fully arm’d upon a bay
To bring this awkward chapter to a close;”
Upon the beach
They land the squadron’s head
While paratroopers reach the key points on ahead.

Castro sent forces well equipp’d
& trained by the Eastern Bloc,
To meet the threat they raged & ripp’d
Their way to that flimsy dock,
The lucky few invaders slipp’d
Away, a frighten’d flock,
The rest were traitors, martyrs, what you will,
Strung up or shot they rotted on the hill.

Two agents mutter’d neath the ropes,
Let’s message Washington
Atop these slopes have died our hopes,
Short of full invasion
The tight fist of the Communists clutches every
Cuban.”

Pinar del Rio
1961


Cuban Crisis

Against the accursed horde.
May noble fervour swell like a wave,-
this is a people’s war, a holy war
Vasilii Lebedev-Kumach

With nationhood the field of future War,
The Cuban turning Texan hopes estrange,
Its closeness to Louisiana’s shore
Brings megalithic Moscow within range;
Silos… palm trees…
Conceal & camauflage – CHECK SPELLINBH
“Good god, sir, what are these?” “Man, this aint no mirage!”

Fidel Castro inspects the strip
Glibly waiting warheadrie,
An act of supreme brinksmanship
John Fitzgerald Kennedy,
On launch buttons asserts his grip
Averting World War Three,
For Mutually Assured Destructions
Temporalizes Man’s politicians!

Faced with the last day of its days,
Mankind solves its crisis,
Some harper plays melodic lays
My friends remember this…
Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis!

The Brink
1962


Saddam Hussein

It is a world of sleep & unreason.
The heart hears no concordant music
in the obstinate chanting of the wind
Nikolai Zabolotsky

Iraq, old lynchpin of the Arab sphere,
Black nectar by oil-global barons sought,
Importance of thy kudos rising clear,
The CIA lend sacchirine support;
The Communist
Courts the Prime Minister –
Like some malignant cyst arrives his young slayer.

A man of violent thought & vain,
Betann’d as the devlish Moor,
Has come to end his leaders reign,
Steps thro the rubicon dooor
Aim’d pistol at his victims brain,
But then the aim was poor
So turn’d & fled into the eastern night,
Uprescued by a secret service flight.

As climate changes with time’s span
The migrant may return,
No common man, his simple plan
Awaits the fateful turn,
To join the Ba’athist party & the presidency earn.

Baghdad
1963


JFK

That with a hand more swift & sure
The greater labour might be brought
To answer to his inward thought
H.W. Longfellow

As the all-American democrat
Sat gently on the presidential throne
The world, it seem’d, was free from, ‘All of that!’
Those tensions of a post-nuclear dawn;
How high hopes grew
When crimson-cheek’d Russia
Missile silos withdrew from communist Cuba.

Alas this world is like the mind
Bears unveiling iceberg tips,
When the cruel cabalistic kind
Holds our fate upon their lips
& global forces in a bind
That never, ever slips –
For this is the way of the world my friend
A sham to pay their daily dividend.

Thus when that peaceful president
From Vietnam did sway
Assasins sent, angers to vent,
None shall stand in their way,
& everyone remembers where they were upon that day.

Dallas
1963


Death of Churchill

With dying fire and light,
With agony of birds
The day defers to the night
Richard Church

Back to the halls of power nobly trekk’d
Our cigar-smoking stalwart of the West,
Back at the hustings wins back wide respect,
Prime epaulette pinn’d on his noble breast;
That famous fire
Still glimmers in the eye,
While memoirs of Empire revive the Nobel prize.

But age is age & to us all
Must pass eventually,
Forever to resign the role
On the move to Sicily,
He breaks his hip, a clumsy fall,
Pain hidden stoic’ly,
He hugs his darling wife & takes her hand,
“Take me home, I wish to die in England.”

Three hundred thousand sombre file,
Their Wellington, their mate,
Mile-after-mile, a human Nile,
Their civic oak in state;
Buried within the gardens of his ancestor’s estate.

Blenheim Palace
1964

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