Canto 23: D-Day

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradles,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born
WB Yeats

The French Resistance

“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

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

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
Slammig 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

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 the Point 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

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

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



Commanders relax on the 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



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


Fighting For France

Felix Crimin’bus non erit hoc diu;
The Allies press on to the Sequana;
Stars & Stripes, Union Jack, Tricolor,
Together bluster Liberty’s ardour;
With shaven pate,
Receive that four-year hate crash’d on angry faces.

The grand offence bogs down & gropes
Thro’ the Bocage chequerboard,
Round Kalvarienburg’s red slopes
Deadlock blunts the Saxon sword,
Tho’ outmann’d, outgunn’d, ‘gin the ropes,
From airways slash’d & claw’d,
The Wehrmacht fight with bold heart bursting big,
As with the master after pass’d Leipzig.

A token force of six Tigers
Met fifty times their size,
What warriors forged in Russia’s
Rough fields of snow & flies,
No matter, they shall certainly be snuff’d out from the skies.

Villiers Bocage
June 13th

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