Canto 66: Warfaring

Older men declare war, but it is youth that must fight & die, & it is youth that must inherit the tribulations, the sorrow, & the triumphs that are the aftermath of war

J E Hoover


Monte Cassino

the last wish of heroes fallen at day-break
with a wingless stone in hand
& a thread of anger snaking from their eyes
Jofre Rocha

From white morning mists rose the Ausini,
Weaving his magick Lord Sol clear’d the scene,
Spreading thro the streets of Saint Germani,
The Allies pressed in khaki, beige & green;
Such handsome men
Met that crack mountain troop,
Again! Again! Again! Returning with a stoop.

Altho’ the abbey pleach’d sublime
Above the battle’s terrors,
Centuries shatter’d in short time
By waves of Allied bombers,
This heinous, most heathen crime,
Repeated thrice before…
Those tons of dust thrown up settl’d to show
Monks batter’d, weeping for Gregorio.

They left this bastion of faith
Like rippers leave a whore,
Some ruin’d wraith, stone sunk in Lethe,
Til she will rise once more,
A mass of grey stone sleeping in the trail of Total War.

Italy
Feb 16th
1944


Budding Love

Now don’t go thinking I must be drunk
if I love my good lady;
for without her I cannot live
Guilhem of Aquitaine

Time rushes as the brush of history
Paints frassic varnish oer th’embattled Earth,
Sennets resounding loud for Liberty,
A generation’s sacrifice her worth;
Hebe’s darlings
From valley, peak & shore,
Lull’d by true valour’s wings & poetry in war.

Maggie ‘I’ll-do-my-bit‘ Sumner
Sign’d up to the Land’s Army,
Threshing ‘Down South’ in hot weather,
Slim, scruffy, sweaty, sultry,
My name is Carlton Dillinger…”
“Oh aye! Mi name’s Maggie!”
“Nice to meet ya ma’m!” “This one’s got manners!”
“When d’ya finish?” “Soon… will yer wait fer us?”

By wee heliochryse they walk,
Soon skipping hand-in-hand,
They stop to smoke, soon drop the talk,
As sudden lust’s demand
Consummates the bond between America & England.

Devon
March
1944


Auswich

Oh, happy life ! To rove the mountains wild,
The waving woods, or ocean’s heaving breass,
With limbs unfettered, consicence undefiled
Anne Bronte

The darkest hour is that before the dawn,
By Slavophilic internecinum
Along the Valambrossa freight trains blown,
Halting at the sidings of th’abysm;
What ghastly smell,
Foul & nauseating
Ill-welcomes them to Hell… “Line up for delousing…”

They come to where the Grunfeld’s stood
& choose the two old fathers
With Heidi pale, whose thinning blood
That daily weaker courses,
All hugg’d & kiss’d the best they could
Until they kick’d Moses,
Yanking three kinsfolk from good family,
Put on the path to ash-eternity.

Stripping naked, they march to where
A sweet ensemble play’d,
“Why do you stare?” punching the air,
Brick chimney… all hopes fade,
Two brothers face death hand-in-hand, breath poison’d as they pray’d.

Poland
April
1944


The Great Escape

We dared to hope against the spoken word
And even when their names were there to see
We couldn’t quite believe what we had heard
Denis Mackarness

Many months of muddy perspiration
Has built unto this tense, dramatic night,
From cramp’d passages subterranean
Seventy three men crwal into moonlight;
One muffl’d cough,
A sentry makes the find!
Deliverance is off, one hundred left behind.

Scattering in all directions
Bold as brass & sly they snook,
Til shoddy documentations
Watchful volk & sheer bad luck
Has denied their demonstrations –
Fifty thrown in a truck,
Twenty serv’d a severe smack on the hand,
Only three reach all-elusive England.

The truck halts at a remote spot,
Fifty file out to piss,
A mauser shot, their stoumachs knot,
“What the bleedin ‘ell’s this?”
Hitler’s machine gun vengeance, smoking muzzles spit & hiss.

Silesia
April
1944


Soldier’s Homecoming

For it’s the same old story,
There’ll be no jokes when you come back
And little bloody glory
Timothy Corsellis

The soldier may be taken from the War,
But that War will never leave the soldier,
Into Rosegrove the train roll’d… as a door
Flung ope, there stood worm-eyed Tommy Sumner;
His only leg
Tip-tapp’d onto platform,
He paus’d, roll’d up a fag & hobbl’d his way home.

He was a simple, honest man
From streets pluck’d ordinary,
Out-serving the ferocious span
That was his ‘Tour of Duty,’
But home was where the hate began,
Twas alien country –
The fate of Western civilisation
Depends on jam, suet, spam & bacon.

Tommy carried little Lucy
To bed & said, “Goodnight…”
“Goodnight,” said she, innocently,
“Why did yer ‘ave to fight?”
“To save the world from one bad man, go sleep or he might bite!”

Burnley
May
1944


Jungle Liberty

Looking out towards the horizon
I dream of my escape
Freedom beckons me
Ernestine Northover

Shane Slater sat cracking his teeming lice
Emaciated, weaken’d with fatigue,
Sustain’d by friendship & handfuls of rice,
Laying this damn’d railway league after league;
“You are cowards!”
Brave men told ev’ry day,
Ramm’d home with fists & swords slicing ensanguin’d spray.

Poor Alfred, half dead with disease
(most thought he’d nearly had it),
Shown piles of rocks, “Coward! move these!”
He tried but could not do it,
So tied between two supple trees,
A sweep… the rope is split –
Terribly tearing his torso in two
Back upright went those bent trunks of bamboo.

Shane snapt, ghost looking on aghast,
Soul sharing his friend’s pain,
He broke & dasht, the bullets pass’d
A bee’s dick from his brain,
Three miles of jungle flasht before he saw his thigh’s bloodstain…

Thailand
May
1944


Traitors

It may be said that we tackled wherever we could,
That battle-fit we lived, & though defeated,
Not without glory fought
Henry Reed

With certain gen’ralry new thought took hold,
With growing doubt comes disillusionment,
Der Fuhrer naught but bemustach’d cuckold
Upon der Fatherland’s destruction bent;
“…Stalin soon here…”
“…We must agree a plan…”
“…our sacred country steer from that deadly madman!”

Having lost both an arm & eye,
Tho’ mind in prime condition,
Von Stauffenburg, willing to die,
Gneis’nau’s dashing great-grandson,
Responded to the sacred cry
Of this secret mission,
“I’ll do it if you guarantee the coup!”
“Assured, but first there’s one thing we must do…”

Von Falkenburg & Steulpagnel
Pour’d Rommel a fresh Schnapps,
“Just your name will avoid civil
War & Deutschland’s collapse!”
He thought awhile then gave it, “He’ll be martyr’d” “Yes, perhaps…”

Herlingen
May 27th
1944


Love’s Bond

Who will stir up whirlwinds of furious fire
If we do not, & those whom we call brothers?
Join us, Romantic friends! Forget all others!
Arthur Rimbaud

The moon was full & the night rippl’d fair
For the coming  home of Monsieur Merlot,
Drifting gently on cushionings of air,
Dogs barking in the farmyard dark below;
Piercing the night
Shone secretive beacon,
Bright-flickering flashlight of the destination.

With wonderful euphoria
Black boots thump bon native ground,
Poetical adventurer,
Unborn children to astound;
Welcoming this paratrooper
The Maquis gather’d round –
To their lovely leader, Miss Innocent,
A concupiscent angel had been sent.

“Pierre!” “Veronique!” cheeks embrace,
Love shares its desp’rate cling,
While passions race the jaundiced face
Of Constance simpering
Distorts to monstrous maelstrom… blister’d with twisted feeling.

France
May 29th
1944


Agony of Command

The sinking enacted
only in the flux,
the layers of the soul
Evangelia Papachristou-Panou

Two empires allied since the Peace of Ghent
Combine to strike a rival from the Earth,
Into low landing crafts their soldiers went,
With rifle, helm & ammo-belted girth;
Reading, smoking,
Enjoying life’s sweet breaths,
Of their loved ones thinking or conjuring their deaths.

Eisenhower bore cognizanze,
‘Supreme Allied commander,’
His charges set to march on France
Depending on the weather,
Jan Mayen charts the likely chance
Of skies sweeping clearer
Upon the sixth… to risk it don’t know…
What do you think Monty?” “ I would say… go!”

The sirens of the Norman shore
Broke his indecision,
“But war is war, I won’t say more,
My thanks to everyone,”
& looking at his wrist-watch in an instant he was gone.

Southwick House
June 4th
1944

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