Canto 61: Stand-Offs

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country

George Scott

 

 

Avatars

Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies
Lord Byron

An old man drags his bulk across the sands,
Off-breaks beside the barb’d perimeter,
& clambors over, sharp wires dig in hands,
At once he’s accosted by a soldier;
“Hold it right there…
O my god, you’re Churchill!”
The P.M. gave his stare, the M.P. freezes still.

By Rooseveldt he takes his seat,
Discussive for the future,
To German cities we must mete
The full wrath of the bomber!”
“Aye, until Germany’s defeat
& total surrender,
By Europe’s freedom all deeds must measure –
Japan may be destroy’d at our leisure.”

They left the villa for the sun,
Found soldiers to review,
Nigh ev’ryone American,
The fighters Yankee too,
That oerhead roar’d, defenders of the world’s most crucial two.

Casablanca
January 27th
1943


Pendulum Turns

And there before the night, he was aware
of the flayed fields of home, & black with ruin
The helpful earth under the tracks of tanks
Sidney Keyes

From the depths of a tractor factory
Rose a crackling corp’ral’s rattling broadcast,
Reaching within each German eaterie,
“Der Fatherland, der Fuhrer to the last!”
Lost & alone,
“Why are we forsaken?”
All animals hath flown, endure here only men.

Ivan came in ev’rywhereness,
“Hund wollt ihr ewig leben?”
In kingly, heroistic dress
Willie urges on his men,
Thro’ daunting danger & duress
Til all quell’d well, & then
He sits with his wife’s photo one last time,
Last round blows out his brains, walls coat with slime.

Paulus grappl’d with cruel conscience,
Cow’ring in the corner,
Christian sense curtails defence,
Consenting surrender,
How glad that captured mass of men meant for Siberia.

Stalingrad
February 2nd
1943


Death of Jack Sumner

The rage of armies is a shame of boys;
A hero’s panic or a coward’s whim
Is triggered by nerve or nervousness
Louis Simpson

They rais’d their spirits with an old sing-song,
Soon silenced by surfacing submarine,
At once old sailors knew something was wrong,
Those long, square-jaw’d faces far too serene;
Cold reasoning,
Der Fuhrer’s directive,
“Pity is burdening, let no opponent live.”

Sighting muzzles upon them aimed
Fuel enough for frighten’d flap,
We are unarm’d, ye not ashamed!?”
Blonde rating straighten’d his cap,
Took four bullets, bloody & maim’d,
Croak’d, “Cheerio old chap!”
To this miraculously unhurt Jack,
Led breathless, daring not to answer back…

As Xaver survey’d the murder
He caught a faint movement…
As a Stemmler slays a Sumner,
Now unambivalent,
The goddess KARMA flit the scene & to another went.

Atlantic Ocean
February 3rd
1943


Death of Xaver Stemmler

Between the gem-hung velvert of the waves,
Our sires & grandsires in their green flesh start,
Bend skinny elbows, warn: “We have no graves…
Roy Fuller

E’er since the battle of Trafalgar Bay,
Those vigilant, oak-hull’d leviathans
Have held the Oceans in an Island’s sway,
“England expects!” ev’ry battle stations;
Night turns to day,
Depth-charge splash each quarter,
The decks awash with spray as under the water

Wee submarines are toss’d about,
BOOM-BOOM-BOOOOM & BOOM again,
Some sub-aquatic boxing bout…
Like fountains in a garden
Seawater spouts fill with grave doubt
Entrapp’d & frighten’d men…
Men coat their trousers in a cruddy goo,
As ships ripp’d up & simply flipp’d in two.

Almighty Ocean rushes in,
Thetis astride the bull,
Cat’clysmic din, Xaver aspin,
What weight crushes his skull,
To sleep the deep forever in the cold crypt of that hull.

The Atlantic Ocean
February
1943


Scented Roses

But the sunshine aye shall light the sky,
As round & round we run;
And the truth shall ever come uppermost
Charles Mackay

Plunge German spirits by Stalingrad’s wall,
Male students branded ‘coward dogs askulk,’
The White Rose blooms once more its glinted call,
Printing its stand against the heathen hulk;
‘Our dead adjured!
Kommilitoninnen!
We Deutsche have ne’er endured such tyrannies & sin!’

Willi Graf splashes graffiti,
Painting tin stencil slogans
All round the university –
Where its students versus shoguns
As thro’ each corridor empty
Trail the leaflet weapons
Of true friends of wisdom, lovers of truth,
Under a deadly, mad dog’s rabid tooth.

Sophie has join’d the Rose with pride,
To break the Nazi thrall,
Push’d oer the side a leaflet tide,
Like snowflakes soft they fall…
Between the gaps he saw her face, that man against the wall.

Munich University
February 18th
1943


Penalty Shoot-Out

It wasn’t history but memory
the day the township’s warriors stood
on the banks of the glen river
Aonghas Macneil

Partisans attack the camp at Siretz;
To avenge this impertinent action
Make answers for their grotesque karmic debts,
Every third prisoner faces the gun;
When name-by-name
Brave men of FC Start,
Have play’d their final game, plonk’d three persons apart.

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

The news filter’d back to the street,
Dishearten’d Konstantin,
Sick with defeat he went to meet
His mother in an inn,
“Worry not,”  Christina whispers, “The final we shall win.”

Kiev
February
1943


Black Roses

It stuck in barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
Sylvia Plath

As February sun deludes with Spring,
The pin-precise Gestapo get to work,
Grim narcomaniacs of torturing,
Brains mythomaniacally bezerkl
The ‘People’s Court,’
Judge Friesler at his head,
A traitor’s fate has sought, this day shall strike them dead.

As to the jackals they were toss’d,
For ‘sabotage’ & ‘treason,’
They form’d a holy pentecost
To interrupt with reason,
You know as we the war is lost,
Cowards are in season!”
“Enough!” scoff’d Friesler, venemous & vex’d,
“I’ve found them guilty, guillotine their necks!”

This winter’s sunset is their last,
& this their final night
On Earth upcast, strength unsurpass’d,
Es lebe die frieheit,
For knowing freedom fought for sheds eternity’s delight.

Stadelheim Prison
February 22nd
1943


Russia Rises

For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty
F.W. Faber

The pendulum commences western swing
The Wehrmacht thro’ thinwaist-high, wet snows wade,
The stench of death & swamp-thaw commingling
& Ivan seeming less of them afraid;
Their horses blown,
The battle-charge all spent,
A bitter spite is shown by every regiment.

As Buscher reaches Nastenka
As one the peasantry freeze,
Spying lovely Anastasia,
“Bring her here!” she turns & flees,
Soon captured by swift stormtrooper,
Soon naked on her knees,
She shivers as she’s dows’d in parrafin –
A match, a scream, hot hellfire strips her skin.

The thousand-year Reich in Russia
By the moment is reduced,
Each swastika, with hot anger,
Is ripp’d down from its roost,
As everywhere the liberated Stalin’s armies boost.

Mishinka
March
1943

 

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