Canto 53: Barbarossa

The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient & dangerous of human illusions

Robert Lynd


Fog of War

Without Fortune and prospect, I ignite the fire
Of impatience – the guards of prudence have vanished:
My caravan defenseless in the coming fire
Ali-Shir Nava’i

Stalin tosses his despatch into fire,
“Hitler prepares to invade, screams London,
They only want to plunge us in their mire!”
Molotov reads a note from Washington;
“The twenty third…”
“When will this nonsense end?
Attacking is absurd, Herr Hitler is our friend!”

Good company kept Khan Stemmler
For the conquest yet to come,
Singing songs throughout Silesia
Of Moscow & Lebensraum,
Bearing their blessed Swastika
Stich’d in each labarum,
A battle-banner beaming & unfurl’d,
Full flying to defend the Western world.

By frontier guards passes freight train,
Honouring the treaty,
Loaded with grain from the Ukraine,
Unaware completely
Watching it trundle by them was stormtrooper company!

Poland
June 21st
1941


Diplomatic Breakdown

Begin to learn the patience needed
till the bears’ return, the day
they launch themselves, hungry
George Sipos

Gunflash invigorates the Eastern dawn
& onset marks of dark Barbarossa,
A thousand miles of battle-lines are drawn,
Scale dwarfing the grandstanding of Wagner;
Molotov hears
A hammer at his door,
What arrogance appears? The Reich Ambassador!

“…acts of Russian terrorism
We shall force to pay the cost,
Our rapport with communism
Sadly is forever lost,
Due to Jewish bolshevism
The Nieman hath been cross’d!”
A flabberghasted laugh… a look… a pause…
“& so, at war, our country is with yours.”

A flapping fish caught in a net,
Molotov moved closer,
“Our armies set to meet your threat,”
We shall see… Heil Hitler!”
A click of heels, a strutting out, chang’d Earth’s fate forever.

Kremlin
June 22nd
1941


Endless Leagues

An explosion – & a friend dies.
And so death passes you by this time.
Next it will be my turn
Semen Gudzenko

Scenery steam’d in sepianic sheen,
Battles of manic annhialation,
The greatest march the world has ever seen,
With it comes its greatest devastation;
Each Kesselschact
Tannenburg remembers,
Admonish’d pockets pack’d with desp’rate prisoners.

Some megalithic Tsunami
Breaks oer the shores of Asia,
Its spearheads roll relentlessly
Across Pomenaria
Sweeping Ukraine to the Black Sea –
Pitiful defender
Builds his bastions from friable glass,
Crush’d effortlessly as the Panzers pass.

The granges growing less & less,
All round the brown steppes band,
Vast & endless, vapid, friendless,
Idaho feindesland –
Stalin’s colossal empire in the palm of Hitler’s hand.

Byelorussia
July
1941


The Axis

Would he of icy clouds a throne carve bright,
Or would the demons of the deepest night
A bar build where the shining stars sweep free?
Adam Bernard Mickiewicz

Von Ribbentrop receiv’d Matsuoka
Schloss Fuschl, gatehouse of the grand Alpine,
The war is won,” stated over dinner,
“Strike now & English empire’s your goldmine!”
On Berghof peak
Hitler waited calmly,
“This moment scores unique in all of history!”

They found him in a warlike mood
& Spring’s rejuvenation,
“Brother, when battle is renew’d
This won war will be well won,
When if ye act upon thy feud
With Rooseveldt’s nation,
I promise thee Germany shall assist,
& smash those Allies with our Axis fist.”

A gasping captain makes him jolt,
& Matsuoka smile,
A lightning bolt, “The Serbs revolt,”
A demon spits its bile,
“Then we shall bathe their babes in blood & burning corpses pile.”

Berchtesgaden
July
1941


Death Squad

The dim boy claps because the others clap.
The polite word, handicapped, is muttered in the stands.
Isn’t it wrong, the way the mind moves back.
Richard Hugo

Buscher flavours mincemeat work with relish,
Hunts down the local Party Kommissar,
Whips him, strips him, rips him like a catfish,
Aufklawrong face of burglarizing War;
Penn’d in Juden
Made sad, Schutzstaffel slaves,
“Follow me you vermin, we go to dig your graves!”

Nazi bestiality pours
Oer conquer’d territory,
Sanguinarius Quaesitors –
Einsatzgruppen – kill for glee,
Clipboards notch numbers for the cause
Quite meticulously,
Impressing Himmler with the murder’s pace,
“I must observe a mass shooting take place.”

The bullets whizz, his shoe-shine spit
Splatters with blood & brain;
Edge of death-pit, close to vomit,
The dying squirm in pain,
“These methods are too crude… we must use something more humane.”

Byeloruss
August 15th
1941


Orphans

My question could have been, In what country
will your pillow finally come to rest
and the rain call you home
Nancy Kuhl

Mister sleep misses Kenny & Mavis,
Kept awake by the rumbling punishment
Shaking the distant cottonopolis,
A dull, red glow its torture’s testament;
While down the stairs
A letter is discuss’d
To share it with their cares, or censure it in trust?

They went out as a family
To spend the odd, spare shilling,
On ribb’d sands by the Irish Sea
Run pilots green for drilling,
Quarter’d in ev’ry B&B;
Oer the pack’d proms milling
Young Mavis pointed out approaching sight –
Two air fighters lock’d in thrilling dogfight!

For half-an-hour they fought anon,
& none were barely better
The duel done, all petrol gone,
Engines fail & splutter;
Crashing both on crushpack station, deaths entwine together.

Blackpool North
August
1941


Subjugations

My days were a thing for me to live,
For others to deplore;
I took of life all it could give
Countee Cullen

Buscher rode to the gorge at Babi-Yar,
Black conduit to extermination,
Stripping Jewesses of dress, slip & bra,
He lined them in naked degradation;
Life’s last moments
Wailing in extremis,
Machine gunner opens, delivering death’s kiss.

He rode thro’ warm, Autumnal rain
To a solemn city square,
Men strung up in a greivous pain
Did dance short-time upon the air,
Near them Dosia waits in train,
Voluptuous & fair…
Buscher trots slowly all along her line,
Dismisses the rest, “This one shall be mine…

…Send her to my house in Bremen!”
Beady eyes undress her;
Young Konstantin boil’d up within,
Sprinted home to Mother,
With tear-streak’d eyes he splurted out, “They have stolen sister!”

Kiev
September
1941


A Letter Home

Alas, my memory
Does not want to leave me
And in it, live beings
Czesław Miłosz

Nine torrid months finds Lina’s mind a-whirl,
Still grieving for the loss of her daughter,
“She always seem’d a fit & healthy girl,
How she could have died of pneumonia?”
“My darling wife,
We must give up her ghost,”
Fresh toast & butter knife… Friedrich fetch’d in the post.

“Papa, this is Khan’s handwriting!”
Max snatch’d at his son’s hand,
Tensions delay’d the opening,
Too few contents too soon scann’d,
“All is well! But he is missing,
Mama, his food so bland…
Ev’rywhere the army victorious…
He’ll be home, he is sure, before Christmas!”

“The proudest I have ever been,
My boy he is so brave!”
Xaver’s eye-sheen films with dark green,
Affections he did crave,
So rush’d to join the U-boat arm, for action & the wave.

Berlin
September
1941


Commander-in-Chief

Then red in the reek of that evil cloud,
The Hun swept over the plain;
And the murderer’s dirk did its monster work
WW Campbell

Striding relentlessly Der Fuhrer breaks
The shackles of his vaulting ambition,
Drunk on stunning success he calmly makes
A crucial & game-changing decision;
“First we shall throw
A cloak round Leningrad
&, ignoring Moscow, swing south to Stalingrad.”

Map after map mural’d the walls
With all of his massive gains,
Whose obsequious generals
Wet as otters in the rains,
“We must mount, soon, the broad Urals,”
Their supreme chief explains,
“& with my duty to this world complete
This world shall ever tremble at the feat.”

Stood representing each army
A six-inch swastika,
From which sat free the Czar’s city,
“For that peasant Mecca,
Let her vanish from Earth’s face, berseigtigen forever.”

Wolf’s Lair
September 9th
1941

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