Canto 65: Spiritgrind

Only the dead have seen the end of war

Plato


Bombfall

We there, in strife bewildering,
Split blood enough to swim in :
We orphaned many children
Thomas Love Peacock

That old maxim, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right,’
Forgotten on the so-call’d ‘Master Race,’
Trafalgars of death bombers every night,
What terrors on a new-born baby’s face;
A droning noise
Comes crawling from the west,
As Churchill’s Murder Boys face their most fiercest test.

Thro’ shudder-skies aflak with shot
Muscles ack-ack fully-flex,
Bombs rattle from a pepperpot
On a virous Volkssturm vex,
Dropping on them what London got
But plenish’d quadruplex,
Ths is the night aggressive war blazed home,
As when the son of Gunderic razed Rome.

As empty ten thousand shelters,
When sounded the ‘All-clear,’
Coriaceous, emotionless
Watching a lynch mob near
This ruin’d British airman begging wounded, sobbing fear

Berlin
November 24th
1943


Home Run

Oh, yes! With uncertain pace
I trod your forest lands,
And on your river banks
Jose Rizal

Bligh gazed upon the golden coast of Spain,
Desanlace of this latest aventure,
Saw only friendly faces on the train,
Far from those at the start of his saga;
Back in Colditz,
Nervy, knife-edge moments,
With Fritz checking tickets & well-forged documents.

He rode his luck to Switzerland,
Compassment the Northern Star,
At Geneva he shook the hand
Of a man named Jean-Francois,
They drove thro checkpoints seldom mann’d
To Perpignan, by car,
Where with a gourd of wine, a quart of cheese,
Young Miguel guides him cross the Pyrenees.

The Holy Grail! Empiric Rock,
His heart leapt up to see,
In sublime shock he made a dock
Of the Royal Navy,
“I am an escaped airman, could you spare a spot of tea?”

Gibralta
December
1943


Jaded Dreams

Such his arrows crossed inviolate regions,
that the rivers scarcely dared to enter,
and such he was pouring out his heroic legions
Jose Santos Chocano

Encaved in a distant reality,
Good German blood staining his vegan hands,
Entranced by ghosts & Himmler’s theurgy,
His officious imperium still stands;
While one-by-one,
His cities well destroy’d
The Allies prime weapon has dragg’d him to the void.

As Hercules donn’d last tunic
& died by his own poison,
Throughout the Reich, full bubonic,
Spread his proud war’s contagion,
Reduces homes to ash & brick,
Morbid devastation!
A bulletin! For him a worse bombshell,
Most of the VI sites destroy’d as well!

He rampaged with his jaundiced eye,
“This must be treachery!”
Drugg’d blood-supply soaring sky-high,
The traitor, “Who is he?”
Clinging sadly to slender threads of dwindling destiny.

The Wolf’s Lair
December
1943


Strange Festivities

The way to respect Christmas time
Is not by drinking whisky or wine,
But to sing praises to God on Chistmas morn
William McGonagall

Christmas? “Fuckin’ Pissmass!” Patrick spat,
The death of his best brother blaz’d his brain,
He saw him laughin’ in the cracker hat
He’d always win, that tug-of-war’s long reign;
As Christmas cracks,
Pat Sumner felt like shit
Full of fake santa sacks it just wasn’t worth it.

Painful to ever reconcile
Still spaces at the table
Whose faces heap’d up in a pile
Of memories & fable –
An anecdote, a knowing smile,
Then… that folded cable,
Remember’d in the drawer where it stays,
Festivity solemnity did glaze.

Pat hit the slopes of Pendle Hill
On Boxing Day, before
Leave days instil belief & will
To trundle back to war,
Part of the spartan manhood set to slam some guarded shore.

Lancashire
December 26th
1944


Rafts of War

Poison from syringe in selected snakes
mix and add
In the colors of sighs and many worries
Giambattista Marino

From dry, drastic steppes north of Caucasus
The Kalmyks eke their meagre existence,
For fear of reprisalries malicious
Offer these retreaters no resistance;
Tho’ they are gone
On comes fresh enemy,
The dark automatons that are NKVD.

Trucks pour into each area,
Guns ensure no argument,
For one collaborator
There’s five hundred innocent,
Yet off to cold Siberia
Each soul of them is sent –
Stalin’s paranoia recently crack’d –
Russian’s had been rumbl’d in the Wehrmacht!

Altho’ their fate not that black breath
Of Jew’s in Hitler’s hand,
A shibboleth of living death
Awaits in white wasteland
Where plague & famine run amok & few can upright stand.

Siberia
January
1943


Return of Rommel

The world presents a strange sight:
The vision’s mantle is torn apart—
May valour struggle with the waves if it must
Allama Muhammad Iqbal

Hitler summons his favourite marshal,
Still could he stir that dusty soldier’s soul,
“This year they must try & cross the channel,
I give you France & the Atlantic Wall…
From Kirkenes
Around the Norman shore,
Down to the Pyrenees, a thousand miles or more.”

As he tours the sea defences,
Twitchy gen’rals round him host,
“Incomplete!” agreed consensus
Shattering Der Fuhrer’s boast,
“We must stop them on the beaches
In one day at the most…
If we do not then this War will be lost!”
His voice grew deep, concern’d & edged with frost.

He waves his Field-Marshal’s baton
Like wanded wizard hand,
Foxish vision sinks one-by-one
Obstacles in the sand,
To rascalise destruction when occasions make demand.

Le Vivier
January
1944


Death of Ciano

When partners can’t agree
Their dealings come to naught
And trouble is their labor’s only fruit.
Ivan Andreevich Krylov

How the fluctuating fortunes of war
Can be embodied in a single soul,
A prince addresses emperors no more,
Condemn’d to wallow in this bourbon hole;
But one more day,
For his strong insistence
On toppling Il Duce has earn’d a death sentence…

So he put a pen to paper
& he started to confess
How his idol & Herr Hitler
Plunged the world into this mess…
Smuggled out by his sweet Edda,
Tuck’d in her peasants dress,
The truth salvaged for all posterity,
She enter’d Switzerland so secretly.

He sat with his fellow ‘traitors’
Facing the gangster law,
Those poor soldiers, dreadful aimers,
One shot him in the jaw
& fell groaning… before he’d died they’d shot him five times more.

Veronah
January 12th
1944


Slave Labour

The sick bay was Heaven itself
An oasis for its inhabitants
In a desert of inhumanity & grief
Maria Joffe

They drew them from the children of Dachau
Four corners of a suppliant empire,
Mere animals to pull the Nazi plough,
Dragg’d thro a steadily stagnating mire;
Slow work’d to death,
“Such waste to slay early,
Until it’s dying breath it can make you money.”

Thetis spat out a freezing spray,
Soak’d those thin rags on Sergei,
Whispering to himself each day,
“You must survive… do not die!”
Busying round a windswept bay,
Sand sticking in the eye,
Burying scores of deadly little mines
According to Rommel’s murd’rous designs.

How girding was each night to hear
This sweet canary sing,
End drawing near, thro’ death & fear,
Patient & enduring,
“Turn it up Stiltski…” “…World service… the Russians are winning!”

Bolougne
Jan 15th
1944


Nine Hundred Days

I wake. Yes, it’s a coffin lid.-With effort
I reach my hands out and I call
For help. Yes, I recall the tortures
Afanasy Afanasevich Fet

As the Nazis abandon positions
Proud citizens commence their rejoicing,
When only anthropophaginians
Tormented by what future’s dice may bring;
So stoical,
What fervour, phase-by-phase,
Did prove indelible those long nine hundred days.

All the city an allotment,
With not one empty metre,
Surviving all that hatred sent
Their way by mister Hitler,
Blessing the sacred sacrament
Of them & Saint Peter,
For faith can even compensate for food
When love of God lives fulminant imbued.

The guns grew silent as, at last,
To regions in the west
The war hath pass’d, the days newscast
Tho’ joyous, firmly stress’d,
Altho’ they’d won their liberty, ’til victory, no rest.

Leningrad
January 27th
1944

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