Canto 63: Ausonia

If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons

Winston Churchill


Invasion of Italy

We are all in the midst of the journey
seeking the road home
in the vast universe without
Kassim Ahmad

“What is it all for, love & peace & war,
When both the wide way’d Earth & Man’s action
Remain as constant as the Northern star?
Muse three old, mid-day crones down the station;
Their wise old eye
Translates the censor’d news,
Watching the trains pass by pack’d with Palermo’s Jews.

From harbours of Tunisia
Arab maidens sang goodbyes
To a fabulous flotilla
Form’d to ferry the Allies
To sandy old Sicilia,
Neath luscious sommerskies,
Overwhelming the unprepared beaches
Of shell-shock’d, co-axial defenders.

The scenery invokes the gleam
Of early Punic Wars,
When first the dream by hawk Tireme
Brought yon the Roman shores,
Spreading Hellenic legacy – cultura, learning, laws.

Panormus
July 10th
1943


General Patton

We are stampeding to end stampedes
We are fighting for lambs
Who are never likely to be born
Osbert Sitwell

Patton hot-steps onto the Gela plain,
With shoulder-pads & ego equal wide,
Ambitious utterly for this campaign,
A contest perfect for his buxom pride;
His bow unbent
No foeman could withstand
As Axis soldiers sent skidaddling inland.

The general struts ‘cross the stage
In a shiny, armour’d car,
All round his green swards come of age
In the the dusty hards of war,
Envisioning a full front page
Lures him like a lodestar,
“Step to it boys, come on, the Truman Trot!”
“Geeze boss, five miles an hour, its far too hot.”

The city chants, ecstatical,
“Down with Mussolini!”
Once beautiful the capital
Of citrus Sicily,
In war’s rough wake looks dead & lifeless like a leafless tree.

Palermo
July 23rd
1943


Escape from Colditz

God heard the embattled nations sing & shout
‘Gott strafe England’ & ‘God save the King!’
God this. God that, & God the other thing
JC Squire

Bligh look’d upon the verdant Molden vale,
Sheer schloss serenely firmamentward shoots,
So foreboding he grew a chloric pale,
Heart sinking to the bottom of his boots;
Oflag IVC,
Cold castle for bad boys,
Broad gates bolted firmly with such soul-scarring noise.

Oer the claustrophobic courtyard,
After evening’s cramp’d apell,
He watch’d the patterns of the guard,
Felt familiar feelings swell,
“I’ve made a plan, it sounds quite hard,
But best give it a bell!”
He told the season’d escape officer,
“Yes, good luck, it’s time we hit another…”

Nigel appear’d quite debonair
In German uniform,
Snook down the stair with perfect care,
Dropp’d where bright flashlights comb,
Brush’d off the dust, saunter’d outside & headed off for home.

Germany
July
1943


Turning Tide

Remember our transient life;
It takes months for a body to form,
Alas, a mere instant to go
Guru Arjan

Kertsch morphing from hope to emergency,
Its little instigator kept his cool,
Musing upon this news from Sicily,
“It must be a feint, they think me a fool!”
”Turn from assault,
From now spurn all attacks,
In Balkan hills we’ll halt them Allies in their tracks!”

& so, with all reserves coop-flown
The Wehrmacht cuts its losses,
Their Eastern Front by barrage blown,
Then sliced in two by sappers,
All round them enemy hath grown,
Asiatic faces:
A Turkestani waves the red flag high,
Storming the bridge ice-shrapnel splic’d his eye,

So drops the flag, soon waving proud
Clutch’d by some Kamchatkan,
Pick’d from the crowd a bullet cloud
Slays in decimation –
Flag rais’d by an Irkutski, always forward to Berlin!

Suska
July 12th
1943


Ousting Il Duce

In the blue span of heaven the stars appear
To wait, all gathered round;
& listen, listen! how the pipes sing clear
Giovanni Pascoli

Italia! nearest heaven on Earth,
To poetry thou art the perfect foil,
Where suckl’d Rhea’s sacred sons from birth,
Mars roams again across the blood-stain’d soil!
As capital
Suffers bombs midst beauty,
The Grand Fascist Council has summon’d Il Duce…

The coup chair’d by Badaglio,
“Our contree is in turmoil,
Thus, Mussolini, ‘YOU MUST Go!”
Fat man’s blood begins to boil,
He look’d around, “Et tu Ciano!?”
Caught in a traitor’s coil,
Dismiss’d summararily by the King
Arrested next, nursing his broken wing

He wander’d o’er a pirate isle
Of coves & cliffs & peaks,
Whiling the while in strict exile,
Where but a soft sea speaks
& reliques of our handsome days age slowly to antiques.

Ponza
July 27th
1943


Theft of Europe

He works with a darkness
behind his eyes,
understanding as he does
Owen Sheers

Long train’s pulling into stazione
Out steps green Goering, in silk pantaloons,
Kommandeering the art of a country
Pocketing Europe’s beautiful dubloons;
Such bandit runs
The Reichsbank vaults imbue,
When under Nazi guns who would dare to argue?

This perfum’d, man-mountain of flab
About Golconda lurches,
Conducting graceful smash & grab
On galleries & churches,
This Raphael, that marble slab
Kindling taste entices –
A jackal trawling thro’ those gilded stalls
Collecting choicest items for his walls.

He loaded stalwarts of rare art
Into his carriages,
As engines start, to ease his heart,
Thro’ thick ringed fingers
Bright gems cascade for men self made need re-assurances.

Rome
August
1943


Escape from Treblinka

At night, under the heavy burden
Of their dreams, their jaws move,
Chewing a non-existant turnip
Primo Levi

They’d heard the news, they knew the end was near,
Lugubrious, life pass’d knee-deep in death,
But now, O day of God, the day is here!
When valour fills the spheregusts of each breath;
The storeroom seiz’d,
Its weapons handed out,
The panickers appeas’d, the worried drain’d of doubt,

As one, four hundred storm the camp
& pierce the wire to freedom,
Thro fields soon rumbling with the stamp
Of soldiers searching for them,
“Hide down there man, it might be damp,
But away I’ll lead them
& free you when the coast is clear, dear friend!”
“Thank-you,” hugs Jankiel as his feet descend

Those cellar steps, those secret stones,
Those keepers of his fate:
Treblinka groans, Treblinka’s drones
Were his to rubricate,
Whatever fallen Nazis in the future fabricate.

Maliszewa
August 2nd
1943


Conquest of Italy

Food is scare now, & men are scarce
Whole villages burnt to the ground,
New cities in disrepair
Michael Hamburger

Languor usurps the last coragio,
The fair share of the fighting has been fought,
No faith to summon Jupiter Stator,
Arms thrown aside men made for safest port;
From Alpine mists
The Tramontana blows,
Summoning fresh fascists, vile packs of Nazi crows.

As when the mighty Alaric,
A Magister Militum,
Entering the streets sardonic
Of old Mediolanum,
He with instancy laconic
Beat Visigothic drum,
Announcing to these Ceasar citizens,
“I seize this land, my daughters, & my sons.”

Altho’ the temple of Janus
Hath closed it’s doors to war,
Hitler’s panzers, like tight lancers,
Roll with a clank & roar,
Thro’ Rome’s gorgeous museum streets pepper’d with tombs of yore.

Rome
September 10th
1943


Dramatic Rescue

Tender-handed stroke a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle
Aaron Hill

Humming Heinkels drew gliders deft in tow,
Releas’d them on the buxom welken swell,
Now floating to Gran Sasso, far below,
Capp’d by snow patches & this white hotel;
From splintering,
Flimsy, crashdown gliders,
Strong men rush outpouring, like brave gladiators!

The bungling gaurds jump’d out of bed,
Caught in canine siesta,
Il Duce shouts down, “No bloodshed!”
Some damsel in her tower,
A gen’ral rais’d goblet of red,
Toasted, “To the victor!”
Gobbl’d one gulp by Otto Skorzeny,
“Mein herr, please take me to Mussolini!”

“Der Fuhrer bids ye form fascist
Republic North of Rome…
Hitting the gist Il Duce kiss’d
His saviour, “then back home,
I’ll go?” he mumbl’d humbly, sunken shadow in the gloam.

Abruzzi Appennines
September 12th
1943

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