Canto 26: Total War


Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired.
My heart is sick & sad.
From where the sun now stands,
I will fight no more forever.
Chief Joseph


 

The Last Wolf

A fleet of thirty Lancasters takes flight,
Cocksuring with latest technology,
When wee computers, supporting bombsight,
Keen-measuring wind-speed velocity;
The sixth hour nears,
Below – in Tromsoe fiord –
The matchstick ship appears, each pilot pulls the cord,

Dropping bombs ever precisely
On the long-sought for Tirpitz,
Who shudders with Hellish fury
Neath an unrelenting blitz,
This fairest princess of the sea
Struck by convulsive fits,
Slipping into the icy, bubbling foam –
Above, applauding Britons turn for home.

This last pride of the High Seas Fleet
Lies, rust-meat, under waves –
Awful, complete, total defeat,
Dead in their ocean graves,
This challenge to Brittania ends like Trojan architraves.

Norway
Dec 12th
1944


 

Battle of the Bulge

Let the shell fragments
howl past more often,
random death roam free
Sergey Narovchatov

***

The Allies stand at Germany’s threshfold,
Hitler denudes defences in the East,
Inspires his troops with the gusto of old,
Once more the grand gods of battle may feast!
Thro’ the Ardennes
Trail miles of martial queues,
Fresh aircraft, tanks & men, “To Antwerp & the Meuse!”

Fog drowns the leaves, the ice breeze chills,
Vee-Twos trail fiery blazes,
Thro’ twisted vales, ‘neath snow-capt hills,
Trundle hundreds of panzers,
No vernal cluster’d Daffodils
Comforting the soldiers
Attacking tanks cunctatorially –
How different from triumphal ‘forty.

The petrol dumps are blown sky high,
Fury’s depleted use,
Their fumes suckt dry the Panzers sigh
Beside the milky Meuse,
Yearning for famous victory, alas the Fates refuse.

Dinant
December 22nd
1944


 

A Game of Poker

Yuletide passes by & yet no victor;
Saint Nicholas delivers golden gift
To the Allies, the skies gleam clear weather,
Reflected by the bright, white snowsome drift;
Farenheit’s fall,
The GI grows colder,
Shouts, “Fire in the hole!” Angels on his shoulder

Go about their deadly business,
Wreaking murder far below,
Piles of presents sent for christmas
Lie unopened in the snow,
For nearby these frozen corpses
These gifts will never know
As all about the Fuhrer’s grand design
But a spent promise broken on the line.

All-in for the Fascist menace,
Three aces… world grows hush,
Hitler’s grimace, the other ace
Flipp’d for a royal flush,
The Allies claim the bulging pot, upon three sides now push.

France
December 27th
1944


 

For Japan

We didn’t see our dead,
Who rarely bothered coming home to die
But simply stayed away out there
Howard Nemerov

How light the hearts of men summon’d to die,
The time to please the Emperor soon come,
Pride forms blue spinning crystals in the eye,
Serene as the floating chrysanthemum;
From Kyushu
To Soya-Misaki,
Tojo’s warmongers drew their lethal infantry;

Then pour’d them thro’ the harbour quays
Filling the honeycomb caves,
The Kimigayo on the breeze
Superpatriotic braves
Heard strange whisperings in the trees
As mad kannushi raves,
Ambitious lilies adventing the storm,
Not long to go before the war comes home.

Basho climb’d gorgeous Mount Shuri,
Open’d his heart & pray’d
For victory, his great army
Snoozed in the evening shade,
Waiting to be awoken & to draw the Empire’s blade.

Okinawa
January 1st
1945


 

Death of Frau Stemmler

Karolina gazed on beautiful spires,
Medieval majesty up-streaming,
Untouch’d by this damn’d war’s destructive fires,
The World of old all dazzling & dreaming;
Her cousin Klaus
Meets her at the station,
Soon in a coffehaus flows good conversation.

Bligh flew over Franconia
Where the targets drew in sight,
Dyak temple of Der Fuhrer
One moment before midnight,
From the belly of his bomber
Drops the poor people’s plight…
A grey deluge of terror from the skies,
Frau Stemmler cursed Herr Hitler as she dies.

As ghastly Magdeburg suffer’d
This city too knows hell,
Bligh glides his bird & at the word
Load added to the swell,
A far cry from gallant ‘forty this slaughter ariel.

Nuremburg
Jan 2nd
1945


 

Defeating the Wehrmacht

Men shuffled thro’ the snow with frozen feet,
Beshawl’d as hags, thick whiskers wire & grey,
The gamble fail’d, an army in retreat,
Avoiding another bloody Cannae;
As in the East,
To the cruel Katyusha,
Hordes of Russkis releas’d across the Vistula.

It was less offensive action,
More the milt’ry parade,
As Berlinwards marches Russian
With the Saragozan maid,
Narr’eyed avengers talion
Primal instinct obey’d,
Zhukov commands the Mazovian plain,
The Wolf’s Lair now diminish’d of Wolfsbane.

With freedom of the world at stake,
With Wolves of war abroad,
Riding the Snake the Russians take
The Moscow-Berlin road,
Racing on hated enemies to put them to the sword.

Warsaw
Jan 12th
1945


Desperations

Tho’ shehila stay’d, these breathing corpses,
Dancing attendant to the Kapo’s stick,
Are oft’ selected to please the doctors…
Young Ludwig gains six inches with a brick;
They pass him by,
Clutching a surgeon’s knife,
A joyous, silent sigh… another day of life!

If you’re content with a little
Enough’s as good as a feast,”
But poor Joseph drops his kettle
& could not digest the yeast,
Gracile bones huckstering brittle,
As flesh bore he the least,
Today the guards would bundle him away…
Ludwig sits down to pray where last he lay.

The rumble of the Russian hosts
Murmurous daily near,
Like phantom ghosts the gibbet posts
& ovens disappear…
When rainbow stars are driven off to march the snowy fear.

Auswitz
Jan 20th
1945


 

Landsturm

Max Stemmler requisition’d by Goebells,
Reich-remnant summon’d to the Prussien,
Oathsworn to resist in bloody battles
The brainwash of the Bolshevik Russian;
His sons were dead,
Them martyrs in his eyes,
Blessing the blood they bled he dons the Jager’s guise.

No rhyme nor reason could explain
The thrall of the Nazi hymns,
Tho’ zest of Hitler’s early reign
Now death’s gory paroxyms,
When loyalty could still ordain
Stepping into chasms…
The GI’s pierce the gloomy atmosphere
With an unanswer’d, “What we doing here?”

Survival’s trivium, of war,
An old man grown full sick,
Thro’ shatter’d door he’d seen before
Torn poster clung to brick,
‘All this we owe to der Fuhrer!’ he laughs all lunatic.

Berlin
February 3rd
1945


 

Cold War

The Big Three meet in reconquer’d Crimea,
Churchill, ailing Roos’veldt & the Georgian,
An august body stately & austere
Discussing this thorny Polish question;
As the Allies,
Grand sharers of the cost,
Inquire thro’ narrow’d eyes, forged friendships freeze & frost.

“Surrender unconditional;
Come fin’ adest revum…”
“Born of order’s calm revival;
Status quo ante bellum…”
Tho the bloodlust soon to settle
Still Stalin beat the drum,
“Shoot fifty thousand gen’rals out of hand
To cleanse the devil from the dark Deutschland!”

Churchill gestured with the fury,
Iniquitously rack’d,
“You would kill me ‘fore I’m parley
To such a savage act!”
Such idealistic diff’rences do seldom merge in pact.

Yalta
Feb 13th
1945

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