Canto 11: War Wounds


The soldiers fight & the kings are heroes
Talmud


 

A Letter Home

Nine torrid months finds Lina’s mind a-whirl,
Still grieving for the loss of her daughter,
“She always seem’d a fit & healthy girl,
How she could have died of pneumonia?”
“My darling wife,
We must give up her ghost,”
Fresh toast & butter knife… Friedrich fetch’d in the post.

“Papa, this is Khan’s handwriting!”
Max snatch’d at his son’s hand,
Tensions delay’d the opening,
Too few contents too soon scann’d,
“All is well! But he is missing,
Mama, his food so bland…
Ev’rywhere the army victorious…
He’ll be home, he is sure, before Christmas!”

“The proudest I have ever been,
My boy he is so brave!”
Xaver’s eye-sheen films with dark green,
Affection he did crave,
So rush’d to join the U-boat arm, for action & the wave.

Berlin
September
1941


 

Prisoner of War

Against the armour of the storm
I’ll hold my human barrier,
maintain my fragile irony
Hamish Henderson

Cradle of Slavic Christianity
Blown up Sergei Stiltski’s own brethren,
Trudging slowly thro’ this depress’d city,
Close to the road resounds an explosion;
Marching to war
Yon Kiev’s anxious hive,
Toward the front’s dull roar, one rifle between five.

A disaster without precedent,
The largest ever troop-trap,
As Hitler wounds an elephant
With a circle on a map,
With Stalin sat impenitent
As broke the thunderclap;
Six hundred thousand survive the battle,
Fenced off in roofless fields like dumb cattle.

“Food!” “Food!” Sergei springs to action
& sprints to this barb’d wire,
Heaving legion of starving men,
Moaning hunger’s desire,
Scrapping for scraps… he caught a bap, tho stale wolf-gorged entire.

Ukraine
September
1941


 

Drang Noch Osten

Stalin’s laughter haunts Hitler’s garish dreams,
Ghosts whisper, “Delenda est Carthago!”
Come morning konferenz his sol-fa screams,
“I must begin the drive upon Moscow!”
“Perhaps we should
First form a winter’s line?”
“Nonsense! with one last shove the Kremlin shall be mine.”

Those mucky & encouching seas,
Thick, brown, froze ev’ry axle,
The Wehrmacht sinks up to it’s knees,
Jackboots suck’d from each ankle,
Their throttle roar more flagging breeze,
A foundering battle…
While Ollie rifles thro’ the Russian dead
Some sleep-coat stands & stabs him in his head.

Khan blew that black-tooth’d grin away
& dug his friend’s death-hole,
The grave fill’d in, loss felt like kin,
For friendship touches soul,
While from the ruthless Heavens Winter’s first snowflake did fall.

Dorogobuzh
October 7th
1941


 

Emperor

Lilts Tojo, admiring, thro’ lush gardens,
Yon lotus buds with flowers commingling,
Thro’ palace halls tapestried with legends,
To the throne of a line everlasting:
Bows low he there;
Below his Emporer,
Sate on his dragonschair flank’d by vase & flower.

His excellency, Hideki,
Has gain’d Hirohito’s trust,
“How long must we let them treat thee
Like some coolie in the dust?
We must attack our enemy,
To strike first is a must,
To destroy our great Pacific rival,
Yamamoto wills your heart to battle!”

The starsoul thinks, then with a sigh,
Lets War loose with a nod,
A time to fly, a time to die,
In service to their ‘god,
Strains Japan’s soul, all set to burst from Wisteric seedpod.

Tokyo
Nov 3rd
1941


 

Day in the Life

The brittle aromatic sage, which,
Trodden down, gives forth a fragrance that hangs
Upon the air, as broken bodies bleed
M Wilmoth

Dust devils swept the deadlock of Tobruk,
Dead heart of this most dreadful of dead lands,
The molten, hostile sky of the Menluk,
Medusa’s blood-serpents squirming thro’ sands;
As Dawn slow grows
Eager for the slaughter
Tommy Sumner arose… life short, but days shorter.

From out some mess tin Tom did shave,
Nobble-knee’d in khaki pants,
White knight of a Crusader wave,
Carthaginian elephants,
Whose citadels turn totall’d grave,
Flames licking from the vents…
& with a best mate shot on either side
A brown-eyed boy from Burnley nearly died.

As Billy writhed in agony,
On hot sand worm-guts spill’d,
How terribl’y veterancy
Such hellish sights did build,
‘If mi number int on it,’ Tommy thought, ‘I sha’nt get kill’d!’

Cyrenaica
November
1941


 

Fortress Malta

Mussolini blames his woes on Malta,
“Allow this hornet’s nest no hour of rest,
An unsinkable aircraft carrier,
From now keep her activity depress’d;
She is the knife
Press’d on lines of supply,
Her people full of life, then they will have to die.”

The Maltese met Il Duce’s rage,
Determin’d on liberty,
Imprison’d in an island-cage
They’ll dig themselves to safety,
A second neolithic age,
For faith’s first family;
Living life in a limestone catacoomb,
Candles & prayers lighting up the gloom.

Fighting for their little country
They’d help a global cause,
‘Tween Italy & Tripoli
Attack’d the Axis stores,
With submarines & wellingtons, force all the wrack of wars.

Mediterranean
November
1941


 

Glimpse of Glory

Fascisti race to the gates of Moscow,
Ran ragged in her ruin’d environs,
Ice-caked at thirty-five below zero,
& the Russkis still scrapping like demons;
Skirting the verge
Of that fabled city,
One last glorious surge must seize them victory!

Kampfswagon engine warm’d by fires,
Khan’s company advances,
On reconnaissance’s acquires
Most mythical of glances,
In nearing distance Moscow’s spires
Flutter like goldfinches,
Rough volley of gunshot disturbs the dream
For motley crews of workers on them stream!

With the Panzers frozen solid
A few leagues to the rear,
Entrench’d Russian, with wrench & gun,
In action ever near,
With pisgah sight those spires espied… mist shrouds… then disappear.

Khimki
December 3rd
1941


 

Pendulum Turns

My country is my pride & glory!
The great Soviet people in a headlong rush
Of fiery lava will wipe out the fascist gang.
Nikolai Tikhonov

***

For those friends having fail’d to run the course
Willie’s harp sang a sad & lilting dirge,
Breakfasting on the flesh of frozen horse,
Sweat froze to Khan at his madnesses verge;
Reduced to rags,
Barely untermenschen,
O torn & tatter’d flags, O worn & shatter’d men!

Over Moscow’s frozen river
Came Zhukov’s counter-attack,
Fresh soldiers of Siberia,
From many a hunter’s shack,
Spirits fortified by vodka,
Snowsuits upon the back,
Supported closely by planes & cannons,
Shall pulverise those exhausted Germans.

Thus perishes the same retreat
Which slew the Grand Army,
Raped with defeat, scraping ice-sheet
Men trudge dejectedly,
Homes burning, & potatoes, to express tough enmity.

Russia
December 6th
1941


 

American Opinion

Rita clocks off another working day
Making deadly accoutements of War,
Collected her ever-increasing pay,
Then nipp’d in for a whiskey down Hank’s Bar;
Conversation
Deepens at the refill,
“I did not raise my son just to die for Churchill!”

“I fought,” said Hank, “In Flanders’ mire,
Back in Nineteen Seventeen,
Pull’d Britain’s chestnuts from the fire
In scenes like ya’ve never seen,
Just so that lousy old Empire
Remains our global queen!”
A tear slipp’d from the corner of his eye,
“Y’know I saw a lotta good men die.”

She drains the glass, gush’d from her core,
“God bless America!”
Walks thro’ the door to Ned’s new store,
There buys a newspaper,
Front pages dominated by sour-face Mister Hitler!

Jerkwater
December 6th
1941

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