Canto 68: D-Day

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born

WB Yeats

Denial & Destiny

The darkness whirled but silent shone the animals.
Just before dawn the dove flew out of the dark
Flying with green in her beak; the dove also had come.
Josephine Jacobsen

Across Ribbentrop’s desk scorches ‘the sixth,
He has the spy sack’d as a dissident,
“Heavy seas must deny that narrow width,
Generals peel
Their presence from the shore,
Went playing at Kreigspiel, lost in an unreal war.

From the auld Roche Guyon castle,
Duke Rochefoucourt’s stately seat,
Bound a happy, buoyant Rommel
Like the cat who got the treat,
With the promise of no trouble
Drives smiling down the street,
His wife shall get a gift on her birthday,
Those front-line tensions half-a-world away!

Upon the fringes of the Reich,
Fair coast of Normandy,
The Naiad psyche draws Friedrich
To sunset-colour’d sea,
“I am ready,” heart thumping free, “to die for Germany!”

June 5th

The French Resistance

Ye sons of France, awake to glory,
Hark, hark! what myriads bid you rise!
Your children, wives and white-haired grandsires
Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

“Blessent mon Coeur d’une langeur monotone!”
The second half of a Verlaine malaise,
The Herresgruppe obtain’d oer the phone,
“Expect the invasion within two days!”
“If they will come
Then Calais it must be,
No need to beat the drum alerting Normandy!”

Veronique’s Maquis & Pierre,
Gather’d in lip-hush stable,
English newsreaders grace the air,
“The dice are on the table!”
This moment’s majesty they share
Mote profound than fable…
Six patriots switch off the radio,
Then slip into the night to start the show.

Hastening to the sabotage,
Rail-bridge soon river rocks,
Across the stage a pent-up rage
Administers rude shocks;
Resisting, restless regions of down’d pylons, damag’d docks.

June 6th

Piercing the Atlantic Wall

From so much opening of my arms
dreaming of the moment in which I will embrace you
they have become stuck in a cross
Pilar De Valderrama

Now entering the end-days of our War,
Grand finale of the Age of Empires,
Long story drench’d in misery & gore,
Now liberty attends to Hades’ fires;
Aft, “Three-two-one,”
Leaps first paratrooper,
Vangaurding invasion of Festung Europa.

Tis night, & the bright moon outglows,
Laird of a silvering scene,
Blossoming from droning shadows,
Drifting earthly-wise serene,
Rows of silken, cloud-burst heroes,
Yclad in Kendal Green –
While ordinary men storm’d the beaches;
Plumbers, miners, doctors, cops & teachers.

Some were fair game to rifle fire,
Others break limbs & backs,
Electric wire, beflooded mire
Extracts war’s brutal tax,
But many men survived the fall to form cohesive packs…

Saint Mere-Eglise
June 6th 1944

D-Day Dawn

The grand Redemption of degenerate man
Is not a single, independent act,
But one great system
Samuel Hayes

As midnight mists melted into morning
Dull cumulus obscur’d the summer sun,
A soldier greeted dawn with a yawning,
Gaze skipping waves… he tighter gripp’d his gun…
At last it comes,
This is the day of days,
A forest of phantoms prowls spectral thro’ the haze.

Beside him paus’d a French cyclist
Into smoke them both did peer,
Shapes turn to ships, they learn the gist
In a moment’s awful fear
A fateful <BOOM>, the hated fist
Of Britain’s bombadeer
Slamming close by, that frighten’d cyclist flees
As Freidrich Stemmler, now, in horror sees

Lancasters flashing oer the fleet
Some twenty sky-miles wide,
Flocking to mete death & defeat
On Hitler & his pride,
Shouts leaping from a bunker; “Every soldier, get inside!”

June 6th 1944

Bloody Omaha

Hear the wind moaning –
Oh, hear it blow,
hear the sea’s mocking cry
Murdo Macfarlane

Long lines of landing craft surge twards violence,
Rapping at the ramps like a woodpecker,
Bombastic bullets burnish the silence,
Sarge bellows, “Boys, this sure aint Nebraska!”
Sick trickles free,
Churn’d by the heavy swell,
Men splash into the sea, death welcomes them to Hell.

Each US Rangers LCA
Berths under Pointe du Hoc,
Tho saturated with sea-spray
With ladder & grappling hook,
They clambour up the slipp’ry clay
To deal a new Quebec,
Those ord’nary folk, inching up beaches –
Plumbers, Doctors, Miners, Cops & Teachers.

Lancasters race oer lethal beach
Blasted waste by mortar,
Where yet to reach the bluff, to breach
Holes thro’ awful slaughter,
Men bray by bobbing bodies bloating in bloody water.

Omaha Beach
June 6th 1944

Death of Freidrich Stemmler

Forget your father;
Forget your mother;
Forget your brothers, kins, and friends
So Chong-ju

Sense stirr’d by the bagpipe’s thrilling muster,
Willing to storm stone bunkers midst the slain,
A rare moment puffs-up Patrick Sumner,
As tho’ perch’d on the Pharsalian plain;
Veterans cast
A vision of Dunkerque,
France meets their feet at last… at last they go to work.

Dusty Friedrich drops down his gun
Hoping quarter, hands held high,
Steps out by a dying Frenchman
& his spike-entangl’d thigh,
Surrenders to an Englishman,
They stood there eye-to-eye…
Tho’ good of soul Pat’s anger fail’d the test,
His rifle raises… piercing panting chest…

Satisfied, the Goddess Karma
Departs the Norman shore,
Where a Sumner slew a Stemmler,
“What did you do that for?”
“One of ’em kill’d mi brother… had to even up the score.”

June 6th 1944

The Longest Day

Take what they have left
And what they have taught
With their dying
Major Michael Davis O’Donnell

The breath of morning burst between the drape,
Atomies dancing in a budding beam,
Frau Rommel felt a nuzzle at the nape,
Then made love to her darling as a dream;
Coitus fashions
Vestments wrapping soul’s core…
Banging-canker’d passions… Manfred yells thro’ the door…

All the world gains confirmation
That the Invasion was on,
Great & timely operation!”
Pipe the newsmen down London,
“Sev’ral miles of penetration,”
Thought Charlie of his son,
“Longissimus dies cito conditur!”
He told his mother, wife, dog & daughter.

From starry cirque, arcane séance,
Freda’s fair spirit flew
To distant France, her mystic trance
Merges with milky view
Of Patrick resting by roadside, “He’s reyt, ‘ee will pull thro’.’

June 6th 1944


Remembering now that I have left love
tenderness, kind touch of flesh far
in another land far in another time
LW Griffith

Commanders relax upon Augusta,
Sooth’d by the narthex of the evening star,
The bridgehead secured in hard-fought order,
The British beaches linking with Utah;
Confidence high
Replaced the day’s fray’d nerves,
The Allies shall supply the war at those thin curves.

From the beach at La Madelaine
Shall venture Liberty Road,
The mulberries are floated in
With many a bulging load,
Amid the gruff, curse-pepper’d din
These vital piles are stor’d,
Food for the armies of the Alliance,
To fuel their progress thro’ the fields of France.

As Welshmen march’d to Agincourt
& Scotsmen, Fontenoy,
Within this awesome seat of war
Canadians deploy,
To live or die in Europe in imperial employ.

La Deliverande
June 6th


Misfortune, I am misfortune,
& my shadow has betrayed me;
Suffering, I am suffering
JM Bognini

To each Departmente spread a secret smile,
Himmler determines one must soon be wiped,
But done, of course, with certain sense of style,
When every detail of those deaths neat-typed;
Choking cordon
Chain’d by Black Shutstaffels –
Village-dwellers summon’d by sick-chime steeple-bells.

Menfolk maliciously murder’d
Beneath a barn’s beam’d arches,
Whose women & offspring herded
Inside the lamb of churches,
Tram trundles tward the massacred
From nearby Limoges;
It’s occupants harried ‘cross the convex,
Exits seal’d off, some firebrand burns the hex.

Wylde shrieks leap from a holy place,
As rose the devil’s flame,
What witch-wound trace etch’d in the face
Of those who know no shame,
To them bestial savagery is but a bullish game.

June 10th


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