Canto 50: Battle of Britain

But, lord, let light go before, & let love come after

John Bunyan


Spycraft

Mighty the Son who caused our wound –
Him our pursuit can never reach
even were we to raise a host
Mor MacFayden

Beneath the radar screen lone dornier
 Ploughs thro’ clouds… from it, leaping overboard,
Danish agents of the Nazi Abwehr
Drift across starlight… on yanking rip-cord;
“What beautiful,”
They thought, “English contree,”
They land… an ankle’s break… “Go, go on without me!”

Hans Schmidt, National Socialist,
 Alfred’s fabl’d vales,
Taking photos like a tourist,
Til a shady guy from Wales
Subfluvials a secret list
Of safehouses… avails
Him to… “remain cautious.. avoid the ports,
Firm handshake & a wad of five pound notes.

By spire & streets, & all around
SNAP-SNAP went camera,
When gone to ground the secret sound
Of his small transmitter,
Hamburg informs of troop manoeuvres thro’ the area.

Salisbury
August 20th
1940


Bombing the Reich

From among us we have sent out
Into the enervating dusk
One little whining beast
Mina Loy

They watch’d the wonder of the Milky Way,
Where Phaeton’s crashing chariot did scorch,
A splash of stars awash with Hera’s spray,
Like glitter in the trail of Luna’s torch;
As mondenschein
Silvers the cloudy seas,
Wings steel’d & aquiline float on propeller breeze.

Chic Xaver basks in revelrie,
Infesting the late night bars,
Vesta’s disturb’d tranquility
As whine-sirens sound for Mars,
Flak throws up flash’d hostility
Where searchlights sweep the stars…
“O what disgraceful form of War to wage!”
Shout sleep-robb’d storm’d round shelters in a rage.

She crawls outside to count the cost,
Picks up the sky-pamphlet,
The War is lost while you are boss’d
By Hitler’s cabinet…”
“Now they have started something!” “Der Fuhrer shall finish it!”

Berlin
August 28th
1940


The Blitz

In fight for life found class distinction fades,
dying never showed a discriminating face:
serge or barathea alike to Hun or death
Peter Fahy

The scales are tilting from Fighter Command,
Empty steel seats at meal-times ev’ry day,
How terrible the strain upon that band,
When here they come again, the cross & grey!
Twelve hundred planes
In eight-square miles of sky,
Bringing the burning rains to churn the old Thames dry.

At an expos’d heart of Empire
Has the world curtail’d all sense?
Sirens squeal & children cry a
Lament for lost innocence,
Mason’ry crumbles into fire
As Andersson’s defence
Lies mangl’d in a corrugated heap,
Beside which crumpl’d infants charr’d asleep.

The half-lights shine beneath the ground
On tunnels & platforms,
Tho’ songs abound sleep passes round
These snoozy, fidget dorms
Of whiskey, fags, soft sneaky shags & hopes for lonely homes.

Kings Cross
September
1940


Death of Sue Johnstone

Under the searchlights tied
In bows of cellophane,
Your camouflage is night
Geoffrey Dutton

Altho’ night fell the pigeon flocks took flight,
Docks shining with an eerie daytime glow,
Up-spurting flames, the stark stench of cordite,
Those flail-a-fall-a rafters row-on-row;
Above them all
Those gutsy herren came,
Relentless to their goal, a capital aflame.

Beyond the bonnie estu’ry,
Yon its looping curvatures,
Each anti-aircraft battery
Pointed accusing fingers,
A bubbling, peasoup cemet’ry,
Devilish defences,
A lottery, & at thy number’s root,
You’d better bag yersel’ a parachute!

Her blazing staircase made her freeze,
The wailing flames arrive,
Upon her knees, thro’ smoke & wheeze,
“At least the kids survive!”
Clutching slow-melting teddy bears, their young mum burnt alive.

Poplar
September 16th
1940


Battle of Britain

starlings flying in formation,
sudden sharp turns, steep ascents,
swarm on delightful swarm
Jesper Svenbro

Paladin Goering hurls his armada,
English airmen currying twards demise,
Another Phlegra, another Zama,
Unfurling upon frail, blue meadow skies;
“Now is the time!”
Ring-fingers fist a THWACK!
From Cherbourg to Trondheim the Luftflotten attack.

Nigh on ev’ry plane was scrambl’d
As the bloody crux was fed,
What battle royale entangl’d
Thro’ the smoky swirl-skies spread,
When the fate of Britain dangl’d
On such a slender thread?
Unless such loss of pilots sooner staunch’d,
Tomorrow would see the invasion launch’d.

Christ-blood streams from a crucifix,
Rains onto streets aflame,
Firedrake antics like sixty-six,
But this time Lady Dame
Shone brilliant defiance as wave after wan wave came.

London
September 15th
1940


Bligh’s Capture

It’s been a terrible trip;
you should be happy you have survived it
Statistics prove that not many do
Naomi Lazard

There is a heat at the heart of battle
Which only the heroical may bare,
Molder’s aim unlooses brutish rattle,
Sends Ginger smithereening into air;
Life-scything cry
Peals from that pilot’s end,
Poor Squadron-Leader Bligh has lost his perfect friend;

So fell upon the Major’s tail
The bleak, red mist descending,
Lets off such lethal eight-gun hail,
It seem’d t’were never-ending,
Such rages yet condemned to fail
Via skilful wending…
For in pursuit of vengeance being blind
His shores of native safety left behind.

Some sharp-eyed coastal battery
Hath clipp’d the wings off Bligh,
His chute <THWACKS> free, proclivity
Drifts slowly thro’ the sky,
At muzzles in a field emits a bitter-season’d sigh.

France
September 19th
1940


The Living Blitz

My precious life I spent considering
What I should eat in summer, wear in spring.
Vile belly ! take the crust ! tis crust ! ’tis nobler food
Sa’di

As sirens fire, up to his office roof,
For visions halieutic Norman climbs,
He’d lost too much at cards, so rose aloof
From crude & clutter’d fleshpits of these times;
As was his right,
Special immunity,
Felt he, death’s chances sleight in such a vast city.

Perusing London’s ‘Bright Young Things,’
Play ‘No Man’s Land’ twyx dances,
Sense-numbing battle slowly brings
Growing insouciances,
Borne stubborn by phlegmatic wings,
Tea-time in the manses,
As all, through the capital panoply,
Grew calm, as sleep panope in the sea.

“We share such bloodymindedness,
If Hitler thinks we’ll crack,
He’ll find in us the kind that does
Not kowtow to attack,”
Thought Norman as his cautious chauffer roll’d into the back.

London
September 26th
1940


Destiny of War

Cut him off. He can take care
Of himself. Take root in the earth,
Or go hunting with wolves.
Charles Simic

Refraining from his guttaral bombast
Hitler convers’d calmly over luncheon,
“The season for the sea-invasion pass’d,
We continue the bombing of London…”
Truths sadly aired,
“This war now beckons long,
Tho’ unfully prepared our will shall prove too strong.”

“England” spoke thwarted conqueror,
Cousins willing to admire,
Has subjugated India
But with superior fire,
Her Raj precursors our Russia…
But… her global empire
Must be destroy’d when all the fighting ends,
When all I wanted was to be their friends.”

“Russia!?”  what resipiscent surprise!
“Why yes, it has to be…”
Divining eyes drift to the skies,
“…Our one true enemy,
Whose rabbits must be swiftly slain or chain’d in slavery.”

Berlin
October
1940


Strange Meeting

As long as the sky whirls
You will be my redemption
And my doom
Reinaldo Arenas

Molotov admired the rich, Reich heartland,
Conducting his formal tours d’horizon,
Von Ribbentrop shook firmly by the hand,
Concealing deftly the escalation;
How plushly lay
That old painter’s study,
Whose helfer sniff’d to say, ‘Velcome to Victory!’

As Vyacheslav faced Der Fuhrer,
He was never overaw’d,
Outspeaking the master speaker,
Show’d his tongue the sharper sword,
Tell me of this New World Order…
What of your plans abroad…
Stalin is concern’d while court you Finland…
What will come of your duel with England?”

Sirens fumigate the building,
Grey shelter tense with fear,
Explosions ring, awful thudding
Comes scudding ever near,
“Dis var is von!” “Then whose are those & why are we in here?”

Berlin
November 13th
1940

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