Canto 59: Titans

All is ruin’d, for fire & the headlong God of War
Speeding in a Syrian chariot shall bring you low.
Many a tower shall he destroy, not yours alone

Aristonice


Prisoners

I carried the false spirit force of sadness
wrapped in a brown sack in the pocket
of a worn, tweed coat
Adrian C. Louis

Humiliated by subhuman skill
The master race enacts its casting vote,
Feeling unsatisfied with a quick kill
They choose instead constriction by the throat;
So drag their prey
To Korolenko Street,
Lets make them rue the day they damn’d us in defeat!”

Kuzmenko is the first to cry
Bull-clubb’d to the ground & shot,
Around Klimenko nail-fists fly,
Til left by bullets to rot,
Shouting, “Red sport will never die!”
Trusevich marks his spot,
Stood proud & tall in his goalkeeper green,
Soon blood-stain’d in the Babi-Yar ravine.

The news filter’d to the outside,
Dishearten’d Konstantin,
Deflated pride went to confide
With mother in an inn,
Worry not,” opin’d Christina , “The final we must win.”

Kiev
September
1942


Guadalcanal

Nay, I protest, though Death with his
Worst Counsel should divide us here,
His terrors could not make me fear
Lord Herbert of Cherbury

America, at last, enters battle,
Aslant volcanic isle rainforested,
Strange & stagnant, humid, pestilential,
By lizards & swarm’d insects infested;
When bugles blare,
Comes forth the fierce attack,
Banzais scything thro air silenced by CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

Men throttl’d with furious rage
Midst the giant hardwood trees,
Mottl’d by squawking foliage,
Warm swamp-waters tickling knees,
Where, fell’d by Wars that others wage,
Full riddl’d with disease’
The last thing many marines would have seen
Were piercing chrystals’ fanatical glean!

Up, up went Nippon’s battlecry
Along the Bloody Ridge,
“Banzai!” “Banzai!” “Maline you die!”
Six hard days of carnage,
But like brave Barnes at Gettysburg defenders would not budge.

Solomon Islands
September 14th
1942


Urban Crucible

It isn’t me, someone else is suffering. I couldn’t.
Not like this. Everything that has happened,
Cover it with a black cloth
Anna Akhmatova

Paulus puts down the phone on der Fuhrer,
Flame-eyed gen’rals await its decision,
“Incontent for us to reach the Volga,
Each brick of this damn’d city must be won!”
With cautious voice
He order’d the advance,
Restricted of all choice, condemn’d to court with chance.

Immazed the Drang Nach Osten’s flow
All in the armpit carcass,
This hellish huge, grey grain silo,
Held by ragged defenders,
Dread lingers in the vast shadow,
Wylde shots blast at noises –
Where rages vicious hand-to-hand combat
In sewer, stairwell, cellar, shop-front, flat.

Pity the poor civilian,
Courageous troglodyte,
An alien subt’ranean
Defending its birthright,
This is its city, its property, its striving, its fight.

Stalingrad
September 19th
1942


Arctic Circle

It is fitting to mourn dead sailors,
To crown the sea with some wild wreath of foam
On some steep promontory
Vernon Watkins

The ice-encrusted look-out grew entranced,
Burnley’s ain blinking hyperborean,
A glowing polar coast capp’d the distance,
Snow-realms of Thule’s half-light Cimmerian;
Ship’s shadows plough’d
Northwards with proper care,
Rolling, pitching thro’ cloud, spray freezing in the air.

Jack Sumner shouts, day-in, day-out,
His convoy runs the gauntlet,
Batter’d & scatter’d by the kraut,
With many a sinking threat,
But well the British gunners fought,
Bursting the minefield net,
To be spotted by their Russian raven,
Who’d escort them safely to this haven.

They’d enter the ghostly harbour,
Discharge their martial bread,
Helping Russia hack down Hitler
In terrible bloodshed,
Then drown’d their thin-fray’d nerves with vodka in a drinking shed.

Archangel
September
1942


Crux

In the ruins a small light flickers,
there is someone alive there,
a fire clenched between his teeth
Iunna Morits

The Kremlin’s air grew heavy with the fate
Of the Russian empire & Stalin’s fame
S’tho standing at the Corinthian gate,
“We must save the city, she bares my name…
Not one step back!”
The motherland’s last hope
Shall beat back the attack, some Sumo at the rope.

Many a penal battalion
Ythrust into the battle,
Trapt twixt a foreign machine gun
& the Kommissar’s pistol,
How they charged in desperation,
Miracle survival…
Getting to grips as quickly as they could
Ev’ry second shedding Soviet blood.

The lucky few punctured the lines,
Cold steel coldly applied,
The siren whines, th’assault resigns
& when the blood had dried
One hundred Ruskis slept breathless but ten schweinhunds had died…

Stalingrad
October
1942


El Alamein

When the bullets came in a hail,
bubbling up in the bare sand,
he remembered Inverkeithing
Sorley Maclean

Stiff-borne by dreams from his fade-worn Fuhrer,
Fraught by an all-expectant Germany,
Ill on the air of the lion-pelt Delta,
The Pyramids in immediacy;
Rommel orders
His neurasthenic men,
“Boys, rev up the panzers, advance them once again.”

Droving North of the Quattara,
These iron-clad caravans
Rode the ridge Alem el Halfa
To the Somuan Shermans,
Hanging tough – from shabby shelter
Shells titubated plans;
He paus’d, the pale moon growing paler still,
Up from the south warm sandstorms shriek & shrill.

Dust settles on a dead terrain,
Enmein’d with armour’d hulk,
Glancing in pain, long lists of slain,
“A tanker has been sunk…”
He took the news heart-sighing, “Call it off!” & left to sulk.

Jabel Kalakh
November 3rd
1942


Problem Solvers

The worst kind of infortune is this, –
A man that hath been in prosperitie,
And it remember whan it passed is
Geoffrey Chaucer

Sinking neath the weight of this fresh burden,
Fork pois’d, flicking thro this fatal cable,
Sate Hitler, that staunch vegetarian,
No vulgar corpse ever graced his table;
He starts to shake,
Meal squashes to the floor
With footsteps in a quake stamps shrieking more & more.

“Get me Von Paulus on the phone!”
“Fuhrer, we are surrounded!”
“You must stay in that battlezone,
DO NOT BREAK OUT!” astounded,
That Field-Marshall despairs did moan
As his heart’s hopes flounder’d,
But tell me how my men shall be supplied?”
“By flights of Luftwaffe,” Goering replied.

“Then that is settl’d,” Hitler spake,
Trusting his winner’s sense,
“It’s make or break, don’t fudge or flake,
Conducting the defence,
Move in & hold the city, a relief I’ll send thee hence.”

Wolf’s Lair
November 22nd
1942


Breaking Point

The great Soviet people in a headlong rush
of fiery lave will wipe out the fascist gang.
Wipe them out ! And leave no traces.
Boris Shmidt

The River Don, held by Romanians,
Precious protectors of supply’s long lines,
Whose ranks beef’d up by brash Hungarians,
Content to keep out cold with warming wines
& cups of schnapps…
As falls the snowy chrome,
Thoughts frozen under caps, still paintings of a home.

Blustering blizzards start the day
As over the ice floes pitch
Arm’d Russians & their countersway
Twyx stark Serafimovic
& Kletskaya’s russet clay,
Above each Donside ditch
Soldiers appear in an avenging surge
Those silhouetted angels on the verge.

Like gas explosion from a mine
These modern Cossacks spread
Their bulging lines of battle, pine
Fresh widows for the dead
In Bucharest & Budapest, on corpses crows well fed.

Eurasia
November 19th
1942


Nuclear Advent

After our bloody century, the sea will groan
under its weight, somewhere between breasts and anus.
Filled with toxins, her belly will not yield new islands
Syl Cheney-Coker

Einstein has warn’d Rooseveldt directly,
“The unspeakable fury of the Bomb,”
A project given top priority,
Harnessing the power of the atom;
Stately support,
No Bonaparte error –
“Fulton, how can a boat travel underwater?”

Midst desolate New Mexico,
At arid Los Alamos,
Best scientists secretly stow,
Clergy of the compound cross,
To blend together all they know
& pitch it on a toss…
Compiling theories & equations,
Creating this ultimate of weapons.

Fifteen thousand tons of silver
Escorted from Fort Knox,
Chance formula produces the
Radioactive rocks –
First control’d chain-reaction epic universe unlocks.

Chicago
December
1942

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