Canto 80: Lingerings

I think amazement in my face was writ
In changing colours, for the shade withdrew
Smiling, & I plunged forward after it
Dante


Maggie Dillinger

Know life is not what it seems
We strip the fat from the lean
And find the facts in between
Lebogang Mashile

Flying oer English fields… via Heathrow,
& Euston… same fields up to Manchester,
Moors around Rawtenstall skiffing with snow,
A strange sensation, home to Lancashire;
Drizzle-soak’d air,
Winds roaming all achill,
She aims a poignant stare, “Kids, that there’s Pendle Hill!”

Up Manny Road bi Shanks’ Pony,
Sees Trafalgar flats amaze,
Instead of tender history
Faded pockets of past days,
But jesting with her family
Invokes old jokes & ways,
The bungalow housing her mam & dad
Soon full of booze, soon riotous, soon mad!

Mam rocks her latest grand-child, Bern,
Most folk don’t give a toss,
What people earn’s their main concern!”
“Aye, & the bleedin cost,”
“These days,” pipes Dad, “the neighbours would prefer us to get lost!”

Burnley
1965


Rule Britannia!

I have every reason to back out if I need to.
What have men ever brought me?
Every kiss brought with it a surge of pain
Kate Dempsey

Of all the gladiators of the age
Britannia fought the hardest of them all,
Her coffers cull’d, her lion in a cage,
Her empire straining, sterling in free-fall;
Blood for the cause,
This vast ‘Vox Populi,’
A land fit for heroes!” those very heroes cry.

An island’s safety is her waves
& in them, prosperity,
Whose banquets served by global knaves
Phoenician hegemony!
Whose sailors hornpipe to their graves
For climate & contree,
Being the legend of the maritime
Tho’ short of sun she proves a golden clime!

Her Royal Highness, with a sigh,
Hands the Superpowers
Her global high, still riggers cry,
The ocean remains ours!”
Those sharpest look-outs of the world poised keen-eyed at the towers.

Cinque Ports
1966


Modern Warfare

We, who choose the country,
Carry some eternal earth
In our pockets & shoes
Frank Jaeger

The Viet Cong receives the Viet Minh,
Regime topplers, subversive element –
Into a war they sense they cannot win
The young sons of the Washingtons are sent:
One of them sniped
Three days since at some farm,
The whole area wiped with hideous napalm.

Tho’ orphans weep & women wail
Determin’d the pervader,
Along the vine, Ho Chi Minh trail,
From Communist supplier
Vital hardware flows from a sale
By varied courier,
By footpad, slow-barge, bicycle & cart…
All set in place, the Tet assaults may start.

Guerrilla groups roam ev’rywhere,
No Clausewitz classical,
A simple stare or grievous glare,
This hard-to-fathom battle
Impossible to ever win, idealogical.

Vietnam
1968


Conquering the Moon

Thou silver deity of secret night,
Direct my footsteps through the woodland shade;
Thou conscious witness of unknown delight
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Sol shines on his planetary minions,
Wee fraction of fractions, sliver of space,
Still more than a million Marathons
Hazels the arena of man’s Space Race;
America
Inches into the lead,
To tread the far lunar a starry feat indeed!

The shuttle nears that rocky span,
Settles perfectly design’d,
<BEEP> “This is one small leap for man,
One giant leap for mankind!”
What wond’rous art & science can
Spring from the human mind,
That in a matter of a thousand years –
Men worshipping the moon to landing gears.

The Stars & Stripes are plunged into
A wave of dusty grey,
Commanding view! Vast orb of blue
Shone bright & far away,
How lucky was that little crew what knew the moon that day.

Sea of Tranquility
1969


When Fischer Met Spassky

You are the Master,
You are the knower of hearts;
You are known because of your devotee
Bhagat Ravidas

In aulden times of distant genius,
From Araby did spring mankind’s prime game,
A treasure & a skill to all of us,
Of infinite wonders, then tis a shame
These adherents
Such heavy burdens bare,
Two icy opponents game in the global glare.

When Washington’s Bobby Fischer
Met Moscow’s Boris Spassky,
Their sixty-four squared arena
Bristled with vast energy,
Living legends drawn together,
Match of the Century,
Move after move of caution & attack,
America sits down to play with black

& claims the point with fev’rish play,
A new world champion!
Hair all a-fray & fleck’d with grey
Scuttles home the Russian,
A day for the vainglorious, like President Nixon.

Reykjavik
1972


Toyboy

And on the days when even the
Voices in your head will not agree.
You are still 90 trillion cells holding together
Thuli Zuma

Drain’d by the stresses of this modern life,
The Dillingers pleasantly separate,
He takes a sleek & sexy Texan wife,
While Maggie, too, seeks out a second mate;
At Port-au-Prince
She finds a paradise,
Where credit cards convince lithe, young blacks to entice.

Jules met her by the crystal caves
& kiss’d her in the moonlight,
Went down with her to see the graves
Sinking since that shameful fight,
When White Men came to shore in waves
To claim a sattelite –
Pipping both Cuba & the KGB,
A conquest in the name of Liberty!

Tho’ dollars have replaced cannon
Still on they come!” he said,
“Lets have some fun,” they sank in sun,
Drank rum & ran to bed –
She quiver’d as his tongue deliver’d lightning to her head.

Haiti
September
1973


Last Soldier

I have been studying the difference
between solitude & loneliness,
telling the story of my life
Richard Jones

The one-man War of Hiroo Onada
Comes to an end one honour-bursting day,
Wielding his war-flag at the surrender,
His sword still sharp, his hair now gushing grey;
With high-held head
He leaves a life behind,
Scores of unsoldier’d dead, the last lad of his kind.

Stepping into another age
He could hardly recognize
Fierce teenagers, crime waves a-rage
& women painting their eyes…
The sacred lands wear new image,
Severing ancyent ties…
“Where is Japan? What devils walk the street?
Did we give up our pride with our defeat?”

He stood at the hurricane’s eye,
Twas alien indeed,
Noise drown’d a cry, the world flasht by,
At such terrific speed,
The lonely sole survivor of the empire’s fallen breed.

Tokyo
1974


World Cup

’Twas a present from the Dad.
I kicked it yet I worshipped it,
How strange a priest it had!
J. Milton Hayes

It seems mankind has found a safer War,
Better for conducting trials of nations,
Congeal’d, tarsticky pools of blood no more,
Just a ball & its country’s champions;
Gladiators,
With trident-studded boot,
Thousands of spectators stood breathless as they shoot.

Four years have pass’d since that great day
When Muller stunn’d the English,
Each Dutchman seem’d a new Pele,
A penalty to finish!
But puff’d-up by patriot bray
The Germans accomplish
A goal, & then another, turns the tide,
The final whistle hails a nation’s pride.

Max Stemmler bellows with the crowd,
Tho’ now an ageing man,
Proud to be loud, proud to be proud,
Beckenbaur in the van,
A golden globe is held aloft, the game had gone to plan.

Munich
1974


Vietnam

Still I close my eyes and see the girl
Running from her village, napalm
Stuck to her dress like jelly
Bruce Weigl

Contumelious, beastly, bull-brain’d war!
Plague of all nations, nigh on thirty years
A swamp churn’d up on the South China shore,
But now it seems the gory climax nears;
The stars & stripes
Pull’d down from every bole,
As into traps & snipes the GI’s constant fall.

A four-star gen’ral shook his head,
His reputation tatters,
How could jungle & paddy bed
Bless prestige as she shatters?
The power of his fair kindred
Less than that which matters,
For men instill’d with vigour & belief
Will always share the spoils of their relief.

The ghosts My Lai haunt men’s minds
The net is closing in,
An army finds it fights & grinds
Thro’ war it cannot win,
“Tell Washington its over,” scoff’d a captain quaffing gin.

Saigon
1974

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s