Canto 56: Constant Dangers

The most dangerous moment comes with victory
Napoleon


Malta Silenced

So they buried her, & turned home,
a drab psalm
hanging about them like haar
Kathleen Jamie

Christmas passes, still without a victor,
Now Hitler too has blamed Calypso’s isle,
Where from short airstrips served by Valetta
His convoys are attackt mile after mile;
Thus Rommel starved,
Thus Suez kept open,
Thus his vast forces halved twyx Saxon & Russian.

Malta besieged by brutal means
By Mussolini’s navy,
As when bloodthirsty Hagarenes
Had throttl’d her from the sea,
Old churches blown to smithereens
By Codotteiri;
Its airstips by Luftwaffe pulverised,
The threat to Hitler’s supplies neutralized!

From the shores of Sicilia
The merchant vessels flow,
Topless sailors take siestas
On deck-tops tranquilo,
Tanks ferrying with petrol, fuel for Rommel’s coming blow.

The Mediterranean Sea
January 4th
1942


The Final Question

You’re our country’s lost property
with no office to claim you back.
You’re polluting our sounds. You’re so rude.
Jussawalla

Heydrich receives Hitler’s whim thro’ Himmler,
Schutzstaffel konferenz to Wansee borne,
Yachts dallying on a gentle water
Sumptuous luncheons laid on level lawn;
Aft finger-licks
& champagne guzzl’d hard,
Men dawdl’d thro’ dorics of a villa’s white façade.

“The time hath come for Endlosung,”
Chirp’d Heydrich over brandy,
The very last blood-drop be wrung
From the Jews methodic’ly,
& spare us not avenging young,
Raise hands if you agree…”
This act of villain faith wraithweevils share,
Adds Eichmann, “Let us breath, at last, clean air…

At Auswich an innovation
Successfully was tried,
The gas Zyklon… deportation
Shall drain Europa wide,
In fifty months more than ten million Jews will have died…”

Berlin
January
1942


Soviet Stoicism

at regular intervals,
one dry leaf after another
falls from the tree
Vinod Kumar Shukla

Snow falls with a blizzard-bitter harshness,
Yet onwards, ever onwards, rolls the war,
God mighty canon-Krupps sent to oppress,
The celebrated ‘Venice’ of the Czar;
Constant shellfire
Rains down on every side;
No redoubt to retire, no bunker for to hide.

Despite worsening misery
Of the hungry, cold half-dead,
Men kept alive through poetry
& the sawdust in their bread,
But none hold onto sanity
With bellies barely fed,
Beloved pets spit roasted, streets of fear
As first few little children disappear.

Krasnaya fills with men & guns,
Oktober’s famed parade,
The sights of sons & fathers stuns,
The women in the shade,
Saluting Vladamir’s statue off to the front they fade.

Leningrad
January
1942


The British Ocean

I will go & lie inside his body,
Go down in the sea where they buried him,
& stay with him there
Ifaluk Atoll

The waters of the world a wild whirlpool,
Ships sucking into sub-infested seas,
Here wolfish packs of hunter-slayers rule
Oer convulsing convoys, wasting disease!
Atop the main,
Tho,’ Germans second best,
Like fleets of France & Spain, & bottled up in Brest!

Three German warships & their men
Desperate for home waters;
Scharnhurst, Gneisnau, Prince Eugen,
Adash the Channel waters,
Courting no man with Nelson’s ken
Commands Britain’s forces,
With English radarstreams cleverly jamm’d
They’ll run the flimsy gauntlet to Deutcshland.

Amid Hanseatic safety
& the Norwegian fjords,
Hitler’s navy rejects the sea
& slowly rots the boards,
Imprinted on their psyches is the sharp of Deptford’s swords.

Coast of Europa
Feb 15th
1942


Fall of Singapore

Blowing from the west,
Fallen leves gather
In the east
Buson

The Tyger of Malaya gains his name,
The teeming jungles stain by bosky blood,
On England’s empire comes an eastern claim,
Built as it is on soft, tropical mud;
An army runs
Pell-mell to Singapore,
Where vital forts & guns stuck on the southern shore.

Shane Slater fed into the fight,
A total, bloody shambles!
Watches Shonan, the Southern light,
Fair cauldron of world peoples,
Bow meekly to the Tyger’s might,
Tyrant without scruples,
Dehumanizing all who surrender
Cowards call yourselves, kill yourselves better!”

Miserable, defeated men
Choke the road to Changi,
Shot & beaten, none have eaten,
Luckless & footweary,
Facing uncertain futures in useless captivity.

Singapore
February 16th
1942


Manzanar

What longs to leap is impassioned
As the sound of strings he tuned and strummed,
Pulled, plucked and put aside for years
Anand Thakore

The Feds are swooping down on the Issei,
Arresting them for racial ancestry,
But left alone both Gerry & Iti,
Yes! even tho’ those lands the enemy;
From recent years
To Fourth Generation,
Pleas fall on empty ears… “But we’re American!”

As smirching citizens intern’d
In barracks’ concentration,
Precious land liberties were spurn’d
Despite the proclamation
Sign’d by the free, a freedom earn’d,
When, in celebration,
Each Fourth July fall confetti showers –
A child looks up at the camp’s tall towers

& with a frown did ruminate
On gunmen in the sky,
So to the gate where green men wait
She skipp’d & ask’d them,
“Why Am I in here?” they could not say nor could they simplify.

California
February
1942


Close Run Thing

In this leafy orchard is a nightingale,
a nightingale whose songs are the dawn
and take me into the light
Farzaneh Khojandi

Stalag Luft bustles crewdlings, goons & drones,
‘How terribly boring,’ thought restless Bligh,
Now sauntering to Flight-Leftenant Jones,
Who spies a twinklefox in Nigel’s eye,
“Tonights the night!
Are the cutters ready…”
Life’s value actions bright for life & liberty.

Stars fire & thro’ the wire they went
With never a half-look back,
Shunning Sol’s harvest fluorescent,
March’d thro’ night’s covering black,
The dark Black Forest three weeks spent,
They climb’d into a stack…
Dawn swallowing the last of her moonbeams,
The Ranz des Vaches resounding round their dreams.

To gunshot & Teutonic shout
They woke up with a fright,
Rough bundl’d out, fell’d with a clout,
They stood up to such sight…
Almost touching the Heaven slopes of some Helvetian height.

Hoch Finstermunz
March
1942


Swinging Pendulums

for everything in the room was blood-red.
On the window sill, the flowers almost dead.
And all our daily things smelt of the abyss
Leonid Martynov

The winter offensive melts with the snow,
Two great enemies lay down exhausted,
The roads dissolving to a muddy flow,
The front is fix’d, time swung to count the dead;
The German’s score
One million underground,
The Russians many more, what first titanic round!

“Comrades of the fascist Jihad
Let us combine our forces,
Strike from the southern launching pad,
Conquering the Caucasus,
A prompt capture of Stalingrad
Cuts off Red resources,
& following, roll up the Volga’s banks
To penetrate Moscow upon all flanks!”

The pendulum swings back due East,
Stalin’s armies pounded,
More men releas’d, the net increas’d,
All reserves surrounded…
To hoard such feasts of prisoners twelve fresh death camps founded.

Kharkov
May 12th
1942


Burma

Where he makes the rifles cough,
Stutter. Where the reveille
Is staccato majesty
Gwendolyn Brooks

Thro’ fetid swamps Basho drove his forces,
A filthy bunch of Scousers fell upon,
Had them tight-bound at their soft surrenders,
& order’d bayoneted one-by-one;
Blades wipen’d clean,
Under tropical moon,
They press on thro’ the steam to liberate Rangoon.

Thro’ monsoon & malaria,
With barely a bulldog stand,
The British army in Burma
Thro’ a jungle nightmare fann’d
“Yer on yer own fer India!”
The one clear-cut command…
Retreating, in fullness of confusion,
Leafy trails of chaos & destruction.

Basho cross’d the Irrawaddy,
Drove yon the border line,
Eyes sol-lit see raw junglerie
Upon the hills recline,
First bulwark of far-reaching Raj ‘neath Siva’s bleaching shine.

India
May
1942

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