Canto 16: Titans


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


 

Arctic Circle

It is fitting to mourn dead sailors,
To crown the sea with some wild wreath of foam
On some steep promontory
Vernon Watkins

The ice-encrusted look-out grew entranced,
Burnley’s ain blinking hyperborean,
A glowing polar coast capp’d the distance,
Snow-realms of Thule’s half-light Cimmerian;
Ship’s shadows plough’d
Northwards with proper care,
Rolling, pitching thro’ cloud, spray freezing in the air.

Jack Sumner shouts, day-in, day-out,
His convoy runs the gauntlet,
Batter’d & scatter’d by the kraut,
With many a sinking threat,
But well the British gunners fought,
Bursting the minefield net,
To be spotted by their Russian raven,
Who’d escort them safely to this haven.

They’d enter the ghostly harbour,
Discharge their martial bread,
Helping Russia hack down Hitler
In terrible bloodshed,
Then drown’d their thin-fray’d nerves with vodka in a drinking shed.

Archangel
September
1942


 

Crux

In the ruins a small light flickers,
there is someone alive there,
a fire clenched between his teeth.
Iunna Morits

The Kremlin’s air grew heavy with the fate
Of the Russian empire & Stalin’s fame
S’tho standing at the Corinthian gate,
“We must save the city, she bares my name…
Not one step back!”
The motherland’s last hope
Shall beat back the attack, some Sumo at the rope.

Many a penal battalion
Ythrust into the battle,
Trapt twixt a foreign machine gun
& the Kommissar’s pistol,
How they charged in desperation,
Miracle survival…
Getting to grips as quickly as they could
Ev’ry second shedding Soviet blood.

The lucky few punctured the lines,
Cold steel coldly applied,
The siren whines, th’assault resigns
& when the blood had dried
One hundred Ruskis slept breathless but ten schweinhunds had died…

Stalingrad
October
1942


El Alamein

When the bullets came in a hail,
bubbling up in the bare sand,
he remembered Inverkeithing
Sorley Maclean

Stiff-borne by dreams from his fade-worn Fuhrer,
Fraught by an all-expectant Germany,
Ill on the air of the lion-pelt Delta,
The Pyramids in immediacy;
Rommel orders
His neurasthenic men,
“Boys, rev up the panzers, advance them once again.”

Droving North of the Quattara,
These iron-clad caravans
Rode the ridge Alem el Halfa
To the Somuan Shermans,
Hanging tough – from shabby shelter
Shells titubated plans;
He paus’d, the pale moon growing paler still,
Up from the south warm sandstorms shriek & shrill.

Dust settles on a dead terrain,
Enmein’d with armour’d hulk,
Glancing in pain, long lists of slain,
“A tanker has been sunk…”
He took the news heart-sighing, “Call it off!” & left to sulk.

Jabel Kalakh
November 3rd
1942


 

Nuclear Advent

Einstein has warn’d Rooselveldt directly,
“The unspeakable fury of the Bomb,”
A project given top priority,
Harnessing the power of the atom;
Stately support,
No Bounaparte error –
“Fulton, how can a boat travel underwater?”

Midst desolate New Mexico,
At arid Los Alamos,
Best scientists secretly stow,
Clergy of the compound cross,
To blend together all they know
& pitch it on a toss…
Compiling theories & equations,
Creating this ultimate of weapons.

Fifteen thousand tons of silver
Escorted from Fort Knox,
Chance formula produces the
Radioactive rocks –
First controll’d chain-reaction epic universe unlocks.

Chicago
December
1942


 

Counter Attack!

I am not strong, no soldier, no hero,
but if I look back, behind me is 1942,
behind me Stalingrad.
Galina Nikolaeva

***

How brutal when two granite wills collide,
Men kick’d to death defending an ideal,
The Red Army has trawl’d the nation wide
For fodder to feed into Hades’ wheel;
Adolf Hitler
Remains, tho’ devil’s kin,
Pettiest dictator in the times of Stalin.

As winter gales pile up the snow
Still struggle on the soldiers
Half-frozen far below zero –
Von Paulus, thro’ field-glasses,
Views flares; a sent up, signal glow,
By vital rescuers –
“Achtung!” across the Wehrmacht’s flimsy flanks –
Rows lethal roar, lextalionic tanks!

As PANIC acquires grave station
She spreads her pungent breeze –
Chain reaction, six-months gains gone,
World-conqueror far flees,
But for the Sixth, that wounded Knight, trapp’d on its bleeding knees.

Stalingrad
December 22nd


 

Nippon Noon

Sanguine waters surround the Solomons,
The Sun of Empire starts her long descent,
Humbl’d & hurt by brash Americans,
Epitomised by one hardy sergeant;
Our big, bald Al,
As rough as gruff could be,
Stuck on Guadalcanal from Hicksville, Tennessee.

He watch’d the vaulting Perseids
Cause foeman’s vapouressence,
At times was forced to close his lids
To starbrite phosphorescence,
Struck by th’enchaunting Leonids
& life’s impermanence,
He remember’d what his Pa used to say,
“Son, life’s a loan, you’ll pay the debt one day.”

The Yankee seizes seas & skies
As the Imperatour,
Enlowers eyes, slouches & sighs,
“The army may withdraw…”
Bows Tojo, “Yes, your majesty…” then scuttles thro’ the door.

Tokyo
December 31st
1942


 

Imperial Dementia

The pursuit of unbridl’d ambition,
Wildly bezerking thro’ civilised lands,
Oft leads to phantasies, as the vision
Of Empire crumbles to glitter-bone sands;
Hitler muses
Midst these mythopoeics,
So serenely ponders, “O, what should I do next?”

Another Christmas passes by
Still elusive, victory,
Cheer found but when his childish eye
Casts oer a model city,
By marble fire-place a sigh
Of wistful self pity…
Reliev’d by smashing up plastic soldiers
With models of rockets & jet fighters.

Retiring to his simple bed,
Old nightmares draw yet near,
Convulsions shred the shrieking dread,
Awake… awash with fear,
Blue lips babbling strange nonsense, gasping, “He… He… He’s been here!”

The Berghof
January
1943


 

Ghetto

Clack-dish echoes thro’ miserable streets,
But nobody has anything to give,
Death & disease with malnutrition meets
Where only HOPE whispers the will to live;
God’s earthly flail
Flung flat across Warsaw,
Grand flagellant unveils his ghoulish threshing floor.

Faith uplifted with the Torah
& the flesh of Hebrewdom,
Moses lights up the Menorah
Kinsfolk hand-held as they hum,
Proclaiming ‘Happy Hanukah’
& as the meal was done
Ludwig told stories of the Maccabees…
In bursts a breathless Karl with, “Father please

May we converse?” they left the room,
I harbour gloomy news,
They wish our doom, up chimney flume
Intend to send the Jews,”
“This is not true…” “It is, but if they come we must refuse!”

Warsaw
January
1943


 

Convoy

America! Republic Young & Free!
Your Liberty remains supreme touchstone,
Keep safe thine arsenal of democracy
Til by great fleets to battle’s field is borne;
Your shore recedes,
Soon lost in hoary mists,
Merseywise flow the needs to feed th’Allied int’rests.

Our fleet in constant motion ploughs
Thro’ a sea of ceaseless silk,
Wild ocean crashes oer the boughs
Of Elizabeth & her ilk,
Gigantic herd of scatter’d cows
Laden with vital milk,
On all sides nothing but the tawny blue,
Sometimes an iceberg lumbers into view…

Jack blew into his freezing hands,
Inert, unthawable,
In vigil stands watching Iceland’s
Cliff rows formidable,
By nature’s beauty nobly touch’d… rip-tiding to battle.

Atlantic Ocean
January
1943

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