Canto 7: Evolutions


To delight in conquest is to delight in slaughter
Lao-Tse


Enter Italia

Despite to time his trains not yet do run,
Il Duce defines Italy’s attack,
The ancyent doors of Janus toss’d open,
Jabbing a dagger in the Gallic back;
As Axis host
Swells two birds in one hand,
Spears pierce the Afric coast like cacti roughs up sand.

With Hitler nigh victorious,
Rises martial parasite,
Mussolini, ‘vainglorious,’
Best Alpini sends to fight,
Round snow-caps & ice crevices,
Far from Agrippa’s might,
Millennia diluted has the gene
That once won Europe for its own demesne!

Jean-Francois joined a local troop
Of common folk in arms,
Empiric group of youth & stoop,
Of farmers & gendarmes,
Shall guard the pass to Italy, some pancreas of Brahms.

Briancon
June 11th
1940


 

France’s Ignominy

How they fought on the field of Alesia!
How they conquer’d crowns with Napoleon!
How they endured the seige of the Kaiser!
How they bled at the bloodbath of Verdun!
Thro’ Paris flares
Peaceful fait acomplit,
Ominouscent declares theirs was open city.

As ageing Petain chair’d the meet,
His cabinet divided,
Gentlemen! We must accede defeat,
To battle on misguided!”
“To Africa let us retreat,
Fight like corner’d tigers!”
“Oui! If we go we shall retain our pride,”
“Non! Prison camps will cloak the countryside!”

“What of our comrades, les Angliches?”
“They offer union;
To fight, they wish, right to finish…”
“Tis naught but corpse fusion,”
Says Petain, “Soon her neck shall be wringing like a chicken.”

Bordeaux
June 17th
1940


 

Seasider

Sue Johnstone drifts to London Bridge Station,
Jumps on a train escaping to the sea,
Leaves London’s diamond civilisation,
Inspiraling hornet activity;
Infinite air
Of this midsummer’s day,
Wind ruffles thro’ wash’d hair, so good to get away.

East Croydon first, then Three Bridges,
Plouhshar’d scenery serene,
Rusted bangers building hedges,
Signposts nowhere to be seen,
At Brighton hops she on a bus,
Winding to Rottingdean,
To stretch tired limbs on pebbledashing sand,
“I’m sorry, lav, civilians are bann’d!

We’ll mine the beach this week,” he said,”
Sue stood up, brush’d down skirt,
Her pretty head was full of dread
Building to full alert,
temper’d by thoughts her little ones were safe from hate & hurt.

Sussex
June 21st
1940


 

Conqueror!

Clear as crystal in his reminiscence,
The world-historical adventurer
Tours poppy fields; here was youth’s full vibrance
Expended as lowly despatch runner;
“How good & true
Our sacrifice now seems!”
He sighs, while driven thro’ the city of his dreams.

Embedded in his consciousness
Were the palaces & rues,
The operatic spaciousness
Ev’ry artist soul imbues,
Electrical vivaciousness,
As if prolific muse;
Swift papparazi following his lead
Yon Arc & Tower to the Invalides.
.
He gazed thro’ the sarcophagus
Into his hero’s core;
Soft silences, stood glorious
On Alexander’s shore…
“This city truly wond’rous, let us make fair Berlin more!”

Paris
June 23rd
1940


 

Vital Days

With swastikas hanging from Brandenburg,
Hitler back-skulks his Reichschancellery,
Since Belgium, Holland, France & Luxemburg,
Just one more mob, determin’d utterly;
A giant map
Frames the situation,
One dew-bejewell’d gap gaurding that damn’d nation.

“A fleet of mine layers shall build
A bristling ballustradus,
Our legions then may land unkill’d
From Ramsgate to Lyme Regis,
Soon British fields for Berlin till’d,
But first, remember this,
That only one pre-requisite is there,
We must control the all-important air.”

Commending wars der Fuhrer weaves
Crowns for Gods of Battle,
Like laurel leaves – as moment heaves,
Glory swells Goering’s skull,
His baton must be kingsize… with ivory enamel.

Berlin
July 19th
1940


Dunkerque Spirit

This name shall be the symbol for the soul,
A new Promethean triumph in defeat,
And find its place in the historic scroll
EJ Pratt

Nothing to come seems unrealistic,
Morale stabs an amorphous entity,
Horsham deem’d ‘smug,’ Oxford ‘optimistic,’
Godalming ‘defeatist,’ Ipswich ‘happy;
The battle-front
Drifts into British streets,
Prepar’d to bear the brunt of all that Berlin metes.

This is no day to save the stags,
Conscientious objector
Branded, “a rat-thing wrapp’d in rags,”
Then worse, “a bloody traitor,”
Sniff housewives sat beneath the flags,
Waiting for Herr Hitler,
Sipping weak tea, suggesting, “Bloody Huns
Are parachuting in disguis’d as nuns!”

A motivating spirit charm
Envelops Britain’s mood,
From storm comes calm, when safe from harm
World Peace shall be renew’d,
‘Til then they’d have to buckle down like neighbours in a feud.

Great Britain
July
1940


 

The Factory

Charlie took Patrick up Healeywood pen,
To do their bit & dig for victory,
Water’d the veg, sparse fed each clucking hen,
“Looks like we’re ‘avin’ scambled eggs fer tea!”
The town below
Grim-chok’d in chimney haze,
“It’s busy lad, y’know, just like in th’olden days.”

Rose skivvies in the weaving sheds
On shirts fit for a soldier,
On blankets for the pilots’ beds,
On soft hats for the sailor,
On berets for the captain’s heads,
Our factory tailor
Hard-toiling, as the lasses goes to work,
To turn around big losses down Dunkerque.

The ‘home-go’ blows, she rush’d outside,
In charcoal black-out night,
The street-lamps died, her only guide
A dicky-shine-a-light,
Lit haggard flags until her ragged door warm’d into sight.

Burnley
July 28th
1940


 

Censorship

“Brother, come out & play, before you leave
For battle!” prattling Xaver collars Khan;
Of course he went, “What glory we’ll achieve,”
Sports Khan as whizz’d they up the autobahn,
Reaching great port
Beside the Western Pond,
Where sailors records brought from Britain & beyond.

With jackets flash & poise perfect
Felt they very fine indeed,
What music moved thro’ these select
Young socialites… a stampede
Of jackboots… “Our youth must reject
This filth – heroic deed –
At the front this nigger-jew jazz transcends –
When leave you Moringen go tell your friends.”

Khan Stemmler kept his cool, his calm,
Claiming them just passing,
Well did he charm, when safe from harm,
Happiness amassing,
They ran,  giggling  ‘neath streetlights, in friendship unsurpassing.

Hamburg
July 31st
1940


 

Home Guard

We got a tank-trap too, y’know,
though I cain’t tell ‘e where t’ go
T’zee arr zecret, long an’ wooden
Beau Parke

The Battle for France is truly over,
The Battle of Britain has now begun,
The Royal Air Force versus Luftwaffe,
Her nine hundred outnumber’d three to one;
Vague Sky-lines drawn,
Cautious, star-cross’d fencers,
A first few flights are flown, nose-probing weaknesses.

Sarge hands out two rounds for practice,
That’s all the top brass could spare;
Lads, aim yer rifles straight at this
Scrawny scarecrow with straw hair…”
As man-to-man his misfits miss,
“Ya bleedin shower, there
Won’t be a second chance wi’ them Germans!”
This time that scarecrow cut into ribbons.

As Sarge shouts, “March!” off they all sail
Into the nearest pub,
Pints of real ale, a Great War tayle,
Plus Mrs Braithwaite’s grub,
Not looking like Britain’s front line, more like a rambling club.

Scarborough
August 1st
1940


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