Canto 57: Impasse

To require of strength that it should not express itself as strength, that it should not be a desire to conquer, a desire to subdue, a desire to to become master, a thirst for enemies & resistances & triumphs, is just as absurd as to require of weakness that it should express itself as strength

Frederick Nietzsche


Unread Letters

graves with girls.
taken too soon.
too brutal
Koleka Putuma

As Eleanor Stemmler felt herself good,
She couldn’t help but cringe beneath her hat,
Vile members of the Sicherheitsdienst stood
Behind her on the train, what awful chat!
As Russia fell
They’d roar’d all thro’ Ukraine
& drove the Jews to hell, two hundred thousand slain.

That night, with Max, she tried to share
This gossip from the sectors,
Horrescent rumours everywhere,
“Tis nothing but conjectures!”
Her husband huff’d, without a care,
Cold as debt collectors,
“But darling, what if, what if it’s all true?”
“But if it is, my love, what can we do?”

“My friend,” she said, “to Kaunus sent,
I’ve written twenty times…”
“Tis innocent, maybe they went
Elsewhere…” as midnight chimes,
Within the silence marital rise minds in violent crimes.

Berlin
June 2nd
1942


Australian Spit

Youth it enflames, but age it cheers,
I would go back, but not return
To twenty but to twice those yeers
Aurelian Townshend

‘The strongest man is mightiest alive,’
Remembers, each dawn, Shane Taylor Slater,
Determin’d, for his father, to survive,
Sensing chances come, sooner or later;
‘Til then, withstood,
All miseries & sun –
Like bluebells in a wood men wilted one-by-one.

To handle such sadistic sin,
Bear such crude brutality,
Phenomenal self-discipline,
Freed from personality,
Was vital, as with dog-bite grin,
Vanishes self-pity,
To live life in the present every day
& all those happy past-lives hold at bay.

For this is where true torture lies –
Not tied to bamboo cane,
Hounded by flies, as back & thighs
Bull-whipp’d by men insane –
Men’s captive reminscences bring them the upmost pain.

Burma
June 6th
1942


Midway

Our seraphs of white mercies
Shall hover around the ruin.
Their wings shall stream upon the flame.
E.B.Browning

Nippon probes the fog-shrouded Aleutians
Those last, little islands near Hawaii,
Four flat-tops flying high the rising suns,
Their flagship, Yamamoto’s Akagi;
Up from the decks,
Like cranes leaving a lake,
Accelerant, convex, each ‘dauntless’ clouds uptake.

The dateline cross’d from east to west,
Men steel’d their hearts for valour,
Arising on horizon’s crest
Climbs the target carrier,
In single file planes faced the test,
As, at Balaclava,
The gunneries response is amplified
Crescendowards, ‘twas surely suicide.

The Yorktown sunk… by fate, by luck,
By broken naval codes,
Brewsters amuck those four ships struck,
& so, as Hampton Roads,
Those precious airstrips safely kept, the war’s one true crossroads.

Pacific Ocean
June 7th
1942


Inferiors

So then, to tell my story, here I stand.
The dress’s tint, though bleached in bitter dye,
Has not all washed away. It still is real.
Gertrud Kolmar

Since Wansee’s vow Nazis have maximis’d
Their social lordship over all the Jews,
Trapp’d in a den, as them dehumaniz’d
In piecemeal motions, widen’d by the news,
This slow process
Of expropriations,
Doubles each day’s duress, & its degradations.

From public pools prohibited,
Purchas’d newspapers denied,
Debarr’d from buying firewood,
Civic central kept outside,
Electricals confiscated
With telescopes, as died
The shining light of man’s modernity,
Portcullis closes for eternity.

On recremental lives deposed,
Like swine lacking odour,
Good schools are clos’d, warm homesteads hosed
Down with soapy water,
Evicted, cramm’d in hungry camps… cattle to the slaughter.

Germany
June
1942


Death of Heydrich

Only a tiny drill
Can turn into powder
The hardened one
Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming

King Wenceslas’ crown adorns the Hangman
Of Prague, who rules his province arrogant
Enough to be guarded by no real plan…
Thus went his Mercedes, his doom’s advent;
Two patriots
Plot assassination,
Sneak-bomb back’d up by shots… fear waltzes thro’ Tschechienne.

While all around the manhunt raged
Killers refuge in a crypt,
But still ruthless Gestapo gaug’d
Their whereabouts, & so tipp’d
Soldiers of the SS, engaged
This church as bullets ripp’d
Rank on rank from desperate defenders,
“Reserve your last bullets t’avoid tortures.”

Einsatzgruppen dealt the disgust
Of the German peoples,
Beaten & cuss’d, male peasants thrust
Inside cellars, stables,
There set alight, their homes destroy’d, their wives shot thro’ the skulls.

Lidice
June 9th
1942


Clandestine Protestations

I love to see thee bring to naught
The plans of wily men;
When simple hearts outwit the wise
Frederick William Faber

The herd mentality has serv’d us well,
Irresolute & shallow as them led
Wither we are leading, Heaven or hell!”
“It matters not, as long as them well fed
By daily trucks,
Diets of galling stones,
Which grab & cut & suck soft marrow from hard bones.”

Like children, in untutor’d throng,
Overbrushing what looks strange,
Good women, sensing things were wrong,
Felt powerless of change,
But thro’ Von Moltke blew a song
Tho’ dangerous in range,
Solanaceaen intelligentsia
Clambors up from cellars, & together!

Helmuth advis’d the High Command
With secret plans to skew,
His name demands each shame disbands
With sisyphean due,
Not, “what you do’s horrendous,” but, “what does it gain for you?

Berlin
June 26th
1942


FC Start

Never say no to any
Delight which your life bestows.
Grasp it with hungry senses!
Ingeborg Flood

Kizmenko was march’d inside the warehouse
Known by the name Bakery Number Five,
His countrymen as quiet as a mouse,
Just happy to be working & alive;
With joy he saw
Friends from the Dynamo,
& by them on the floor, Lokomotiv Moscow!

As certain persons of this world
Live life as they are meant to
The flag of FC Start unfurl’d,
Russian red & Ukraine blue,
As team thro’ intense training hurl’d
Such expectations grew –
& in the end, whatever might befall,
These dusty kickabouts sooth’d heart & soul!

Upon a happy summer’s day
When dreamer’s lived the dream,
Nazi leeway, they’ll get to play
Romanian starcream,
& goal-by-goal dismantled them, such was their splendid team.

Kiev
July
1942


White Rose Bloom

Whilst fearful battle breaks at dead of night
Heroes ! rise & play your part
The stars will lead you with their friendly light
Roger Scicluna

As darker powers seas & shorelines weave,
Releas’d from their subboreal syndrome,
Hans Scholl & Alex Schmorell frontlines leave,
Disjointing from the bucks that first left home;
Compell’d to write
Leaflets of common sense,
To flog & put to flight cognitive dissonance.

They quoted, quite extensively,
Novalis, Aristotle,
To castigate the bourgouisie
Goethe, Schiller – terrible
Truths told of Fascist Germany –
Most unfathomable
T’would be if Hitler were to win his wars –
Form leaflets mail’d thro’ academic doors.

First Von Moltke read the letter,
Then read it three times oer,
Subnubilar to Luminar
He found a dozen more,
& sent them all to Stockholm for reprintment, spore on spore.

Berlin
July
1942


The Russian Front

the vegetation is of iron
dead tanks, gun barrels split like celery
the metal brambles have no flowers or berries
Keith Douglas

Ravenous warfare, widening regions,
Town hall dominoes sporting swastikas,
Lungbursting songs of conquering legions,
Interrogateries & massacres;
We’ve never seen
A battle of its ilk,
Blood-bolter’d gallow-queen enrob’d in sallow silk.

Tho’ northern impasse yet remain’d,
That lock of arms humungous,
Destruction of the South unchain’d
By supercharg’d invaders,
Another mass of mileage gain’d,
But, with less surrenders –
Thro’ battle’s college wiser men are born,
The Red Army was skillfully withdrawn.

“Get me Von Paulus on the phone!”
“Mein Fuhrer?” “You must take
Stalingrad – ALL of it must fall!”
Gen’rals groan’d in the wake,
“Silence, my will insconced in fate, the Bolshevik must break.”

Vinnitsa
July 23rd
1942

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