Canto 9: Manoeuvrings


What trouble is beyond the rage of man?
What heavy burden will he not endure?
Jealousy, faction, quarelling, & battle,
The bloodiness of war, the grief of war.
Sophocles


 

A New Rome

The Generalissimo took supper,
Settl’d in his leather with Chianti,
Imagining sat with Calphurnia
Discussing tribal Gaul’s hostility;
His brilliance
Unecho’d in the field,
Valletta’s fine defence him offers meagre yield.

Churchill builds strength in wily stealth –
East of Cyrenaica
The forces of the Commonwealth
Cross Egypt’s ancyent border,
In fiery line & perfect health
To claim an Uttica –
From Bardia & dune-sunk lunar sands
Drove Italy’s panic-stricken warbands.

Pride-swallowing Mussolini
‘Neath Hitler’s stern voice squirms,
“Fuhrer! help me! my grand army
Rack’d with retreat & worms!”
“Of course, my friend, but in the end it must be on my terms.”

Rome
December
1940


 

Churchill’s Stoicism

Those fairy-lights which grace Piccadilly
Each christmas are, this year, black’d-out bomb-rough,
Who’d have thought that war could raze a city,
The shape of things to come comes soon enough;
Up Churchill rose,
In whom all hope intern’d,
Thro’ him resistance flows, thro’ him the worm has turn’d.

Aft breaking fast with steak & wine,
He inspects old London town,
His passage clapping people line,
A rallying, “Are we down?”
On all sides, “NO!” “We shall be fine!”
“God bless King George’s crown!”
“Whatever Goering hurls us from the air,
We’d rather die in London than despair!”

P.M. returns to pens & lamp,
Still sirens stretch & roar,
The shelter damp, an aide-de-camp
Asks how they’ll win the war,
“Fight on & hope America walks thro’ our open door.”

Whitehall
December 10th
1940


 

A Daring Escape

“I must avay into the big wide world!”
Sang survivors of the down’d Luftwaffe,
Beyond the wire the last soil layers curl’d,
Behold brave Oberleutnant Von Werra;
Fellow escapers
He bids auf weidershein,
Then offs for fresh capers, to steal himself a plane.

Brassy bold at the police station,
“Sir, my name Captain Van Lott,
I’ve crash-landed my Wellington,
Another plane must be got…”
To an airbase promptly driven,
Suspicion soon grew hot,
“I’ll check your credentials with Aberdeen,
There’s a war on you know…” our man, unseen

Slips thro’ the toilet window slick,
Sprints to a Hurricane,
Whose engine’s tick its mechanic
Sets off… sat in the plane,
An officer aims his pistol right at Von werra’s brain.

RAF Hucknall
December 20th
1940


 

Death of Eleanor Stemmler

“I’m delighted to tell you Frau Stemmler
A sanatorium has been founded
With facilities to help your daughter…”
“They will take good care of my beloved?”
“I’m sure they will,
All prospects beckon fine,
Now if you could just fill these forms in & then sign…”

Eleanor enter’d the abbey
Breathing air quite crisp & clean,
Hippocratic morality
Sacrificed to cleanse the gene,
Guaranteeing supremacy,
Small matter of hygiene –
When feeble-minded deem’d unfit to live
By eugenists no doctor could forgive.

She went out her for a country ride
With excited patients,
Cool monoxide hard pump’d inside,
When closed the precious vents,
She died crying, “Momma!” fingers scraping desperate dents.

Hessen
Christmas Day
1940


 

A Second Daring Escape

Train scythes thro’ Canada’s Arctic semblance,
Within, German captives clamour for ‘go,’
Persistence pays, Von Werra sees his chance,
Knocks black bars out, dives head-first into snow;
Such moments come
For those who dare be bold;
The frail breath of freedom turns misty in the cold.

Trekking thro’ freezing wilderness,
Warm’d by determination,
Light-twinklings his endeavours bless,
From the banks American,
The long Saint Lawrence thaws her dress,
Channels ‘tween ice floes run;
A rowing boat stolen without an oar,
So sets it drifting for the safer shore.

Footfall… to some old folk he drew,
“Is this Amerika?”
“Why yes, but who the hell are you?”
“I am an officer
Of the German Air Force… I am… I was a prisoner!”

Ogdensburg
January 24th
1941


 

Desert Fox

As Rommel took first steps on Afric sand,
All about servants of the fiasco
Load ships, evacuation was at hand,
Arms strewn as if by Trasimene’s flow;
He cocks his cap
Thigh-cracks a riding whip,
“Someone get me a map, I want to take a trip.”

His plane flew lofty on the tour
Of simmering hot Syrte,
Sang some nomadic troubadour,
“What beauty & how ghastly!”
Italy flees along the shore
Yon mud-baked Benghazi,
“We shall form a fresh defence line down there!”
With that they whip back westward thro’ the air.

Between palm-leaf lined boulevards
Parades the Werhmacht grey,
Like picture-cards, ev’ry ten yards
& what a hand to play,
When his aces, the Panzers, have arrived to join the fray.

Tripoli
February 14th
1941


 

Family Tradition

Bruce Slater struggled with the tractor key,
His right arm nigh useless without a hand
Whose bones lie pick’d clean at Gallipoli,
Buried up Anzac Cove, under its sand;
Then came on his
Son Shane with feisty spring,
“Pop, back down in Alice, the army’s recruiting!”

Tough silence overcame the scene,
Roughly broken by Bruce spit,
Altho’ these moments long foreseen,
His Heart-strings still twinge a fit
& tho’ his barely barely nineteen,
“Go son, go do your bit!”
Shane whoop’d with joy, hugg’d his tann’d father,
That night they tuck’d in the Bush together.

The fire crackles as the stars
Sprinkl’d light thro’ the murk,
They talk of wars, Bruce shows the scars
Inflicted by the Turk…
“Son, soldiery is one days fighting for five weeks of work.”

Northern Territory
April
1941


 

The Axis

Von Ribbentrop receiv’d Matsuoka
At Fuschl, gatehouse of the grand Alpine,
The war is won,” stated over dinner,
“Strike now & England’s empire will be thine!”
On Berghof peak
Hitler waited calmly,
“This moment is unique in all of history!”

They found him in a warlike mood
& Spring’s rejuvenation,
“Brother, when battle is renew’d
This won war will be well won,
When if ye act upon thy feud
With Rooseveldt’s nations
I promise thee Germany shall assist,
& smash those Allies with our Axis fist.”

A gasping captain makes him jolt,
& Matsuoka smile,
A lightning bolt, “The Serbs revolt,”
A demon spits its bile,
“Then we shall bathe their babes in blood & burning corpses pile.”

Berchtesgaden
July
1941


 

Birth & Death of Brian Davies

How joyous when a newborn cries its first
& suckles glibly on its mother’s teat,
Whom with his father’s swelling pride-to-burst,
Them understanding life its sweetest sweet;
Wild sirens sound,
Death soars in from abroad,
Bombs battering the ground along the old Mill Road.

What did you think of life, my child,
Before that bad bomb’s striking?
Thy little ward all whitely tiled
I hope was to thy liking,
Murmurs of conversation mild
Spear’d by tearful scriking,
& that warm milk you seem’d to quite enjoy
For those few minutes, you & Lawrence Foy.

“Ee-ya, la! They’ve bomb’d nan’s chip-shop!”
“Bloody, bastard fokkers!”
& still bombs drop, caught on the hop
Huskisson’s poor dockers
But most of all slain babies names remain e’ermore to shock us.

Liverpool
May 4th
1941


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Canto 10: Barbarossa


With the same spirit which governs our actions at home
We wish to establish our relations abroad
Adolf Hitler


Fog of War

Stalin tosses this despatch in the fire,
“Hitler prepares invasion, screams London,
They only want to plunge us in their mire!”
Molotov reads a note from Washington;
The twenty third…”
“When will this nonsense end?
Attacking is absurd, Herr Hitler is our friend!”

Good company kept Khan Stemmler
For the conquest yet to come,
Singing songs all thro’ Silesia
Of Moscow & Lebensraum,
Bearing the blessed Swastika
Hung upon labarum,
A battle-banner beaming & unfurl’d,
Full flying to defend the Western world.

Thro’ frontier gaurds passes freight train
Honouring the treaty,
Loaded with grain from the Ukraine,
Unaware completely
Watching it trundle by them some stormtrooper company!

Poland
June 21st
1941


 

Diplomatic Breakdown

Gunflash invigorates the Eastern dawn
& onset marks of dark Barbarossa,
A thousand miles of battle-lines are drawn,
Scale dwarfing the grandstanding of Wagner;
Molotov hears
A hammer at his door,
What arrogance appears? The Reich Ambassador!

“…acts of Russian terrorism
We shall force to pay the cost,
Our rapport with communism
Is sadly forever lost,
Due to Jewish bolshevism
The Nieman hath been cross’d!”
A flabberghasted laugh… a look… a pause…
“& so, at war, our country is with yours.”

A flapping fish caught in a net,
Molotov moved closer,
“Our armies et to meet your threat,”
We shall see… Heil Hitler!”
A click of heels & strutting out Earth’s fate changed forever.

Kremlin
June 22nd
1941


 

The Agony of France

The Gauls welcome the Nazi supermen,
Preferring peace unto resistant pain,
Yet still, rare alters midst occupation
Bare, secretly, the cross of lost Lorraine;
Shining spirit
Of old Ambriorix
Repugnant in the spit of one imperatrix.

“Nazi batardes!” Veronique curs’d,
Stubbing out her cigarette,
“They rape our country & what’s worse
Les cochons fou raped Annette!
Somebody has to be the first
To challenge such mind-set,
We must form an arm’d group for resistance!”
“Domain…reviens dormir,” whispers Constance.

Slippin’ grace’fly to her lover,
Tongue-probing lust to share,
Under cover, like a glove her
Man thrust his must down there,
Where tho’ her panting sweet still did she long for dear Pierre.

Orleans
June
1941


 

Endless Leagues

An explosion – & a friend dies.
And so death passes you by this time.
Next it will be my turn
Semen Gudzenko

***

Scenery steam’d in sepianic sheen,
Battles of manic annhialation,
The greatest march the world has ever seen,
With it comes its greatest devastation;
Each Kesselschact
Tannenburg remembers,
Admonish’d pockets pack’d with desp’rate prisoners.

Like some destructive Tsunami
Upon the shores of Asia,
The spearheads roll relentlessly
Beyond Pomenaria
& the Ukraine down the Black Sea –
Pitiful defender
Builds bastions from a friable glass,
Crush’d effortlessly as the Panzers pass.

The granges growing less & less,
All round the brown steppes band,
Vast & endless, vapid, friendless,
Idaho feindesland –
Stalin’s colossal empire in the palm of Hitler’s hand.

Byelorussia
July
1941


 

Death Squad

Buscher flavours mincemeat work with relish,
Hunts down the local Party Kommissar,
Whips him, strips him, rips him like a catfish,
Aufklawrong face of burglarizing War;
Penn’d in Juden
Made sad, Schutzstaffel slaves,
“Follow me you vermin, we go to dig your graves!”

Nazi bestiality pours
Oer conquer’d territory,
Sanguinarius Quaesitors –
Einsatzgruppen – kill for glee,
Clipboards notch numbers for the cause
Quite meticulously,
Impressing Himmler with the murder’s pace,
“I must observe a mass shooting take place.”

The bullets whizz, his shoe-shine spit
Splatters with blood & brain;
Edge of death-pit, close to vomit,
The dying squirm in pain,
“These methods are too crude… we must use something more humane.”

Byeloruss
August 15th
1941


 

Orphans

Mister sleep misses Kenny & Mavis,
Kept awake by the rumbling punishment
Shaking the distant cottonopolis,
A dull, red glow its full blitz testament;
While down the stairs
This letter is discuss’d,
To share it with their cares or censure it in trust.

They wentout as a family,
Spending the odd, spare shilling,
The ribb’d sands of the Irish Sea
Green pilots bore for drilling,
Quarter’d in ev’ry B&B;
Oer the pack’d proms milling,
Young Mavis points out an exciting sight…
Two fighters lock’d in sense-spilling dogfight!

For half-an-hour they fought anon,
Falcons all a-flutter,
Their duel done, all petrol gone,
Engines fail & splutter,
Both crash into a crush’d station, folk die all together.

Blackpool North
August
1941


 

Subjugations

Buscher rode to the gorge at Babi-Yar,
Black conduit to extermination,
Stripping Jewesses of dress, slip & bra,
He lined them in naked degradation;
Life’s last moments
Wailing in extremis,
Machine gunner opens, delivering death’s kiss.

He rode thro’ warm Autumnal rain
To a solemn city square,
Men strung up in a greivous pain
Dancing short-time upon air,
Nearby Dosia waits in train,
Voluptuous & fair…
Buscher trots slowly all along her line,
Dismisses the rest, “This von shall be mine…

…Send her to my house in Bremen!”
Beady eyes undress her;
Young Konstantin boil’d up within,
Sprinted home to Mother,
With tear-streak’d eyes she splurted out, “They have stolen sister!”

Kiev
September
1941


 

Commander-in-Chief

Striding relentlessly Der Fuhrer breaks
The shackles of his vaulting ambition,
Drunk on stunning success he calmly makes
A crucial & game-changing decision;
“First we shall throw
A cloak round Leningrad
&, ignoring Moscow, swing south to Stalingrad.”

Map after map mural’d the walls
With all of his massive gains,
Whose obsequious generals
Wet as otters in the rains,
“We must mount, soon, the broad Urals,”
Their supreme chief explains,
“& with my duty to this world complete
The world shall ever tremble at the feat.”

Stood representing each army
A six-inch swastika,
From which sat free the Czar’s city,
“For that peasant Mecca,
Let her vanish from Earth’s face, berseigtigen forever.”

Wolf’s Lair
September 9th
1941


 

Imperial Japan

Sit amidst the shuku-kei of Basho,
Nibbling upon delectable sushi,
Observe a most engrossing game of Go,
With cherubs up-topping cups of Saki;
Chrysanthemums
Scenting Septembral air,
Gorgeous rainbow pom-poms in riot ev’rywhere.

In their casual Wafuku
War seems very far away,
Geisha passes round rich tofu,
“What of Britain?” she did say,
“Her empire sickly thro’ & thro’,
They won’t survive the fray…”
“True Kido-San,” said Basho, “but, for me,
America our one true enemy…

Such crude embargo set in place,
Forbidden to buy oil,
We feel disgrace, that haughty race
Has set my blood aboil!
Friends! we must win an empire their machinations to foil.”

Kanazawa
September
1941

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 could she 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

Canto 12: Immortals II

 


As far as a man can peer thro’ the mist,
Sitting on watch, looking over a wine dark sea,
So long is the stride of the god’s thundering horses
Homer


 

Heroic Counsel

High upon the snow-clad slopes of Snowdon
Britannia gathers in her family,
Pacing by her husband, Gwydion,
Waits she to greet Neptune’s emissary;
Green Merman comes,
Darp’d in coral sharkskin,
The sounds of horns & drums… the meeting may begin.

Drowst Phoebus the scene illumes
As serious parlance cooks,
Zephyrs ruffle Ra’s ostrich plumes,
Her majesty nears the crux,
“Sense I this harbinger of dooms,
Some cancer fills the flux,
The testing time forespoken drawth near!”
Shouts St£rling, “Come the day, who shall fight here.”

The loyal company & true
Cries ready for the War,
Violet Vishnu skims skiey blue,
Ra sails for dusty shore
Neptune accomodates Dagon, the Lion roars it roar!

Britain


 

Apocalypse

Four riders climb thro’ the bowels of DIS,
Steeds fording the flammable Phlegethon
& the dark, brown, dismal Stygian piss,
To cross the waters of the Acheron;
Past Cerberus,
Three-headed, howling hound,
Over Lake Avernus, they stand on Midgard’s ground.

The air soon thick with snort & steam,
Oer the Red, White, Black & Pale,
The Moon took on a crimson gleam,
Bouncing on a fearsome gale,
Around the hoof what horrors stream
Pungent in noxious veil,
A thousand Civiallos & their sneer
Releas’d on Earth to furnish curse & fear.

Mars lifts his blade, strike splits the ground,
Lungs bellow martial roar,
Lor’lein sound startling the hounds
Pacing the Paynim shore,
Whom approach him & approaching yield the first sign of War.

Europa


 

Divine War

At first it seems a cloud of far distance,
Choking the icy wastes of Cocytus,
The standards of the King of Hell advance,
Behold! the Grand Armee of Satanus;
Waving rough sword
In motions of his might,
Behind, a Daemon-horde, above, a Dragonsflight.

Odin’s counsel with proud limbs went
From the stallion Sleipnir
To his son & heir-lieutenant,
Swinging his hammer Mjolnir,
Toward the trembling Occident
Points Gungnir, the great spear,
Sol tentatively rising from the East,
Grew too afraid to light the royal feast.

On clinquant rays three saints descend,
George, Michael & Denys,
Jove’s holy blend, merged to defend
Faith’s physicality,
Blades sharpen’d for the battle, feather’d backs against the sea.

Britannia


 

Death of Venus

‘Loki’ steer’d his steed in full freedom’s flight,
Oer Europa’s thickest forest thick ranges,
Landed upon the mountain of delight,
Lone grey, loon priest ranting of its dangers;
His limbs muscle
Their way thro’ that dark cave,
Down the long, moist tunnel on marmoreal wave.

To view a phantasie palace
Crowning vales of cupid’s art,
The temptres scent of loveliness
Legs slenderly held apart,
O! the vision of her cestus,
Temple’s resplendent heart-
What man could fight allurements of her charms?
What god could fight her soft, “Come to my arms!”

Plunged was a poison-tipp’d dagger
Thro’ Venus’ heaving breast,
By grey river the murderer
Lay her fair corpse arest
Hair willowing thro’ water, one breaks free from all the rest…

Horselburg


 

A Savage Affray

A Cockrelle leapt across the grassy plain,
Assisting fellows tussling with Odin,
Together Tyr & Toutatis lay slain
& all the world was echoing the din;
See… Saint Denys
Transform’d into a Hart,
Chased by great Beast-Boars three, hoof-pounding as they dart.

Now… to the scene of desp’rate fight
Enveloping Saint Michael,
Some foulish serpents poison bite,
The beautiful bladesman fell,
Down to the morass in full flight
Saint George would dive pell-mell;
Disappear’d into flailing tooth & claw,
Then burst up with his kinsman, soak’d in gore.

All in the midst of thick melee
The rampant Lion fought,
Driven slowly toward the sea,
,lbion’s precious moat,
Deep gouges in its surly loins, wylde Harpies at it’s throat.

Europa


 

Prometheus

Wide-eyed inside a nightmare’s aftershock,
The great God of War wakens in the rains,
Arms entermeddl’d, tied to craggy rock,
In desp’rate rage instraining at the chains;
“Why hold me here?”
Shouts echo cross the seas,
No rescuers appear, now dropping to his knees,

He fills the cosmos with despair,
From dawn til the drop of night,
At last the Dark Lord made aware
Of the War God’s awful plight,
So sends three harpies thro’ the air,
Craw-throated feral flight,
From whose sharp claws they drop a golden key,
What mass of slime now rises from the sea?

The key grabb’d by a tentacle,
Lord Mars has been releas’d,
Who stands grateful, & brands his skull
With numbers of the beast,
Him ready to do battle, Hell’s hegemony increas’d.

Oceania


 

Halting Hell

Satanus tried to set the sea on fire
& boil the flesh of Neptune from the bones,
Alas Saint George’s blade, Jove’s first flyer,
Safely whips the flames off with brisk cyclones;
Yet felt a bite,
Pure ichor gushing free,
He fought the Dragonsflight with terrible fury.

In raging snick-a-snack attack
Deus dripping from bright eyes,
Three dragon skulls split with a crack,
To the final beast he flies,
Slicing its wings from bony back,
One heart thrust & it dies,
This day of evil darkness pacified,
Groans of dismay erupting from shore-side.

Dreadful Babababashurath,
The dauphin Lizard king,
Bred wrack’d with wrath, son of ‘Gorath,
Black bone where once was wing,
Sank deep with the dragonicide, its limp tail following.

Europa


 

Love’s Hope

A river courses thro’ Europa’s plain,
Carrying the golden strand of Venus,
On whose fibres rests a precious bloodstain,
Purveying very best of essences;
Wild water roars
To where Thetis makes play,
our hair enchanted pours into a crescent bay.

A Merman scouts the outer seas,
Espies a willowing thread,
Escorts it thro’ the coral trees
To where old Dagon rested,
Who now plants it on snoring wheeze
Of Neptune bare chested,
Locking the lock in lucid, airy dome,
Which blows it spinning thro’ the underfoam.

Hairs land inside an oyster shell,
Jaws quiver as they close,
Ambrosial mother of pearl,
As soft as spring time snows,
Hushing real magic as the lock into a wylde rose grows

Oceania


 

Stand of Pyerun

As weather gleams golden & glorious,
Ever eastward, bespoiling countryside,
Steam the banded legions of Satanus,
Half-a-league in the van four horseman ride;
Hooves grind to halt
Before a vast prospect,
Lit by a thunderbolt, by enemy bespeck’d.

The hordes of Hades charg’d & fought,
A spirit army scatter’d,
As Pyerun conjures fireflaught
So many helms are shatter’d,
As armours caught a fireslaught
Down they gorgesides clatter’d…
Attackers halted as on either side
Stormcraft repels the Stygianic tide?

Great daemons yet surround Pyerun
To deal the killer blow,
Stepping upon a field frozen,
The lake seems solid snow…
‘Til Ice-King’s yell cracks ice; Hell’s shriekings drowning dragg’d below.

Asia

Canto 13


The most dangerous moment comes with victory
Napoleon


Pearl Harbour

Sol’s portal rose Impayen from silk sea,
A fleet illumes thro’ rain-thrash’d morning mist,
Upon the flat-top of the Akagi
Crush’d Yamamoto, pearl, in shaking fist;
World-airwaves fill,
“Tora-Tora-Tora!”
Instreaming for the kill, screaming, “The Emperor!”

Steeds dived down to Battleship Row
Like Samurai swift-charging,
Twin-streak a speeding torpedo,
Drop big bombs from whizzing wing
Awfly spectacular the show,
Noble ships exploding,
Day of Lusitanian proportions,
Echoes resounding round the wide oceans.

The morning’s destruction over,
No more death left to spread,
Each attacker, in good order,
Atop the white wave sped,
Leaving Hawaii belching smoke & Hirohitan dead.

The Pacific Ocean
December 7th 1941
09.30


 

America Goes to War

A veil of snow covers the capital,
But for the widely drifting Potomac,
A pageant of the pleasant wonderful,
Oblivious to enemy attack;
Rooseveldt dines
Within those Whitehouse walls,
One call him realigns, the perfidy appalls.

News-tickers widely read loud,
What words to be receiving,
Rude shock electrifies the crowd
Jaws dropping disbelieving,
A father’s tear slips sad & proud,
Portending his grieving…
Leaving his bag on the roof of the car
Off raced Carlton to tell the news to Ma.

Tongue-babbling fast back at the farm,
At last she gets the gist,
“Don’t join the army, boy, stay calm,”
“But Ma, I must enlist!”
She tried to soothe him with soft hands, they stroked a firm-clench’d fist.

Jerkwater
December 7th
1941


 

Winston Chuchill

Face sighing stern, lips draining brandy glass,
Marlborough’s blood congealing for the fight,
Depress’d with this unpleasant presentness,
No way to win the Wars in mortal sight;
Blimp from dinner,
Half-cock’d cheeks all aglow,
He gestures his butler fetch in the radio…

“… attack’d the Hawaiian islands…”
Splash & splurt, out burst his drink,
Thunder clouds throttling ambitions
Pierced by often dreamt of chink,
“All the tides & all the oceans,
Dare this be what I think?”
By private line he reach’d the President –
To serve his hopes, it seem’d, an angel sent.

“God be with you!” how civilly
Men end a friendly call
His boyish glee vees victory,
So we’ve won after all…
Now Hitler’s fate is seal’d,” he utters with a sterner drawl.

London
December 7th
1941


 

World War

With Rommel retreating to Gazala,
‘Barossa nearing annihilation,
Hitler ponders within Amerika,
Reflecting upon the escalation;
With timely blow
An ally ne’er vanquisht
Has strode into the show in ways he would have wish’d.

Summoning the Reichstag android
Speaks Hitler, virulently,
“Rooseveldt’s war we can’t avoid –
The responsibilty
Of this half-Judaiz’d, negroid,
Capitalist country!
Standing side-by-side with the Emporer,
I have declared war on America!”

As the claque joy demonstrated
A twinge shook Goering’s gut,
Long-awaited, ever-fated,
The World War nailing shut,
A Reichmarshall woe-whispering, “Now Deautschland is kaput!”

Berlin
December 11th
1941


 

Resettlement

The Star of Poland, stitch’d in yellow band,
Decree’d to mark the arm of every Jew,
Upon a platform pack’d the Grunfelds stand,
As cattle wagons clatter into view;
Peasant & priest
Into that cramm’d space sent,
Trains lurch into the East, towards resettlement.

Poland’s pitiful freight trains flow,
Desperation stagnates air,
One welcome smile softens the blow,
Jakob calmly waiting there,
To lead them all thro’ grey ghetto,
A flat for all to share –
Two rooms & one tiny lavatory
To serve his reunited family.

Nikki slipt to the ghetto wall,
The sign ‘Verboten’ said,
Chasing the roll of her blue ball,
The sentry shot her dead…
Wailing kinah to side & sheloshim the Grunfelds sped.

Warsaw
December
1941


 

Death of Khan Stemmler

All across the front the counter-strikes start,
Urged on by vengeance, Stalin & Smirnoff,
It seems once more the ghosts of Bounaparte
Have fled the cruel cannons of Kutuzov;
Adolf aghast,
Thin hair afleck with grey,
“The army will stand fast, we must not fight like Ney!”

Fighting firm with heavy losses
Germans slow the grand Russian,
But their invincible hubris
Defeated to depression,
Like Sargon’s dies supremus
With the Kullumaean…
Without his fingers, toes & half-a-nose
Khan staggers lifelorn thro the drifting snows.

CRACK! CRACK! he falls in writhing pain,
Snow stain’d red where he bled,
His warm breaths wane, the bloody mane
Of some befang’d wolfshead
Brushes his cheek while ripping throat… today the pack well fed.

Russia
Christmas Day
1941


 

The Final Question

Heydrich receives Hitler’s whim thro’ Himmler,
Schutzstaffel konferenz to Wansee borne,
Yachts dallying on a gentle water
Sumptuous luncheons laid on level lawn;
Aft finger-licks
& champagne guzzl’d hard,
Men stepp’d thro’ the dorics of some villa’s façade.

“The time hath come for Endlosung,”
Chirp’d Heydrich over brandy,
“Ev’ry last drop of blood be wrung
From the Jews methodic’ly,
Sparing not the avengant young,
Raise hands if you agree…”
This fateful act of faith bedfellows share,
Adds Eichmann, “Let us breath, at last, clean air…

At Auswich an innovation
Has successfully been tried,
The gas Zyklon… deportation
Shall drain Europa wide,
In fifty months more than ten million Jews will have died…”

Berlin
January
1942


 

Soviet Stoicism

Snow falls with a blizzard-bitter harshness,
Yet onwards, ever onwards, rolls the war,
Watch mighty canon-Krupps sent to oppress,
The celebrated ‘Venice’ of the Czar;
Constant shellfire
Rains down on every side;
No redoubts to retire, no bunkers for to hide.

Despite worsening misery
Of the cold, hungry half-dead,
Men kept alive through poetry
& the sawdust in their bread,
Few manage to hold sanity
With bellies barely fed,
Beloved pets allay the frozen tear,
Then first few little children disappear.

Krasnaya fills with men & guns,
Oktober’s famed parade,
Revolutions’ glorious sons,
But this was no parade,
Saluting Vladamir’s statue off to the front they fade.

Leningrad
January
1942


 

Fall of Singapore

The Tyger of Malaya gains his name,
The greening jungle stain’d in bosky blood
To England’s empire comes an eastern claim,
Built as it is on tropical, soft mud;
An army runs
Pell-mell to Singapore,
Its vital forts & guns stuck on the southern shore.

Shane Slater fed into the fight,
A total, bloody shambles!
How soon Shonan, O southern light,
Pure cauldron of world peoples,
Bows meekly to the Tyger’s might,
Tyrant without scruples,
Strips prisoners of common dignity,
Surrenders deems dogs & cowardly.

How mis’rable that mob of men
On the road to Changi,
None have eaten, shot & beaten,
Defeated & weary,
Facing uncertain futures & useless captivity.

Singapore
Feb 16th
1942

Canto 14:

 


To require of strength that it should not express itself as strength, that it should not be a desire to conquer, a desire to subdue, a desire to to become master, a thirst for enemies & resistances & triumphs, is just as absurd as to require of weakness that it should express itself as strength
Frederick Nietzsche


Close Run Thing

Stalag luft twelve bustl’d with goons & drones,
‘How terribly boring,’ thought restless Bligh,
Now sauntering to Flight-Leftenant Jones,
Who spies a twinklefox in Nigel’s eye,
“Tonights the night!
Are the cutters ready…”
Life’s valued action bright for life & liberty.

Stars fire & thro’ the wire they went
With never a half-look back,
Shunning Sol’s harvest fluorescent
March’d thro night’s covering black,
The dark Black Forest three weeks spent,
They climb’d into a stack…
Dawn swallowing the last of her moonbeams,
The Ranz des Vaches resounding round their dreams.

To gunshot & Teutonic shout
They woke up with a fright,
Rough bundl’d out, fell’d with a clout
They stood up to such sight…
Almost touching the Heaven slopes of some Helvetian height.

Hoch Finstermunz
March
1942


 

Swing Youth

Not every German struts about like Geese,
Some still prefer to swing the jinx away,
That unencumber’d, evergreen release
Teenagers feel when real musicians play;
Eurythmical,
Each gramaphonic scratch
Comblendeth mystical new music without match.

Young Xaver Stemmler caught the drug
Grew his hair an awfa’ long,
Goes wiggling thro’ the jitterbug
In good English sang along,
When puffing like a paddletug,
Settling himself among
The girls, he curls a cigarette, or two,
Sits back & swoons, impassion’d, at the view.

“In here there is no Nazi yoke,
In here feel liberty,”
He lit a smoke, he bit a toke,
He blew the white rings free,
For on the floor lush fraulines laugh’d flush with frivolity.

Berlin
March
1942


 

Swinging Pendulums

Though the struggle has taken a dangerous turn,
though the Germans amuse themselves wuth the fascist chimera
we shall repel our enemies
Dem’ian Bednyi

The winter offensive melts with the snow,
Two great enemies lay down exhausted,
The roads dissolving to a muddy flow,
The front is fix’d, time swung to count the dead;
The German’s score
One million underground,
The Russians many more, what first titanic round!

“Comrades of the fascist Jihad
Let us combine our forces,
Strike from the southern launching pad,
Conquering the Caucasus,
A prompt capture of Stalingrad
Cuts off Red resources,
& following, roll up the Volga’s banks
To penetrate Moscow upon all flanks!”

The pendulum swings back due East,
Stalin’s armies pounded,
More men releas’d, the net increas’d,
All reserves surrounded…
To hoard such feasts of prisoners twelve fresh death camps founded.

Kharkov
May 12th
1942


 

Burma

Thro’ fetid swamps Basho drove his forces,
A filthy bunch of Scousers fell upon,
Had them tight-bound at their soft surrenders,
& order’d bayoneted one-by-one;
Blades wipen’d clean,
Under tropical moon,
They press on thro’ the steam to liberate Rangoon.

Thro’ monsoon & malaria,
With barely a bulldog stand,
The British army in Burma
Thro’ a jungle nightmare fann’d
“Yer on yer own fer India!”
The one clear-cut command…
Whose retreat, in fullness of confusion,
A trail leaves of chaos & destruction.

Basho cross’d the Irrawaddy,
Drove yon the border line,
Eyes sol-lit see raw junglerie
Upon the hills recline,
First bulwark of far-reaching Raj ‘neath Siva’s bleaching shine.

India
May
1942


 

Unread Letters

As Eleanor Stemmler felt herself good,
She couldn’t help but cringe beneath her hat,
Vile members of the Sicherheitsdienst stood
Behind her on the train, what awful chat!
As Russia fell
They’d roar’d all thro’ Ukraine
& drove the Jews to hell, two hundred thousand slain.

That night, with Max, she tried to share
This gossip from the sectors,
Horrescent rumours everywhere,
“Tis nothing but conjectures!”
Her husband huff’d, without a care,
Cold as debt collectors,
“But darling, what if, what if it’s all true?”
“But if it is, my love, what can we do?”

“My friend,” she said, “to Kaunus sent,
I’ve written twenty times…”
“Tis innocent, maybe they went
Elsewhere…” as midnight chimes,
Within the silence marital rise minds in violent crimes.

Berlin
June 2nd
1942


 

Australian Spit

‘The strongest man is mightiest alive,’
Remembers, each dawn, Shane Taylor Slater,
Determin’d, for his father, to survive,
Sensing chances come, sooner or later;
‘Til then, withstood,
All miseries & sun –
Like bluebells in a wood men wilted one-by-one.

To handle such sadistic sin,
Bear such crude brutality,
Phenomenal self-discipline,
Freed from personality,
Was vital, as with dog-bite grin,
Vanishes self-pity,
To live life in the present every day
& all those happy past-lives hold at bay.

For this is where true torture lies –
Not tied to bamboo cane,
Hounded by flies, as back & thighs
Bull-whipp’d by men insane –
Men’s captive reminscences bring them the upmost pain.

Burma
June 6th
1942


 

Midway

Nippon probes the fog-shrouded Aleutians
Those last, little islands near Hawaii,
Four flat-tops flying high the rising suns,
Their flagship, Yamamoto’s Akagi;
Up from the decks,
Like cranes leaving a lake,
Accelerant, convex, each ‘dauntless’ clouds uptake

The dateline cross’d from east to west,
Men steel’d their hearts for valour,
Arising on horizon’s crest
Climbs the target carrier,
In single file planes faced the test,
As, at Balaclava,
The gunneries response is amplified
Crescendowards, ‘twas surely suicide.

The Yorktown sunk… by fate, by luck,
By broken naval codes,
Brewsters amuck those four ships struck,
& so, as Hampton Roads,
Those precious airstrips safely kept, the war’s true crossroads.

Pacific Ocean
June 7th
1942


 

Inferiors

Since Wansee’s vow Nazis have maximis’d
Their social lordship over all the Jews,
Trapp’d in a den, as them dehumaniz’d
In piecemeal motions, widen’d by the news,
This slow process
Of expropriation
Doubles each day’s duress, & its degradations.

From public pools prohibited,
Purchas’d newspapers denied,
Debarr’d from buying firewood,
Civic central kept outside,
Electricals confiscated
With telescopes, as died
The shining light of man’s modernity,
Portcullis closes for eternity.

On recremental lives deposed,
Like swine lacking odour,
Good schools are clos’d, warm homesteads hosed
Down with soap water,
Evicted, cramm’d in hungry camps… cattle to the slaughter

Germany
June
1942


 

Death of Heydrich

King Wenceslas’ crown adorn’d the Hangman
Of Prague, ruling his province arrogant
Enough to be guarded by no real plan…
Thus went his Mercedes, his doom’s advent;
Two patriots
Plot assassination,
Bombslash back’d up by shots… fear flashes thro’ Tschechienne.

While all around the manhunt raged
Killers refuge in a crypt,
But still ruthless Gestapo gauged
Their whereabouts, thusly tipp’d,
Soldiers of the SS engaged
That church as bullets ripp’d
Rank on rank from desperate defenders,
“Reserving last bullets avoids tortures.”

Einsatzgruppen deal the disgust
Of the German peoples,
Beaten & cuss’d, male peasants thrust
Into cellars, stables,
There set alight, their homes destroy’d, wives shot clean thro’ their skulls.

Lidice
June 9th
1942

Canto 15: Impasse


When they were slayn, so thursted him that he
Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye
That god wolde on his peyne han som pitee,
And send him drinke, or elles moste he dye
Chaucer


 

The Russian Front

the vegetation is of iron
dead tanks, gun barrels split like celery
the metal brambles have no flowers or berries
Keith Douglas

Ravenous warfare, widening regions,
Town hall dominoes sporting swastikas,
Lungbursting songs of conquering legions,
Interrogateries & massacres;
We’ve never seen
A battle of its ilk,
Blood-bolter’d gallow-queen enrob’d in sallow silk.

Tho’ northern impasse yet remain’d,
That lock of arms humungous,
Destruction of the South unchain’d
By supercharg’d invaders,
Another mass of mileage gain’d,
But with less surrenders –
Thro’ battle’s college wiser men are born,
The Red Army was skillfully withdrawn.

“Get me Von Paulus on the phone!”
“Mein Fuhrer?” “You must take
Stalingrad – ALL of it must fall!”
Gen’rals groan’d in the wake,
“Silence, my will insconced in fate, the Bolshevik must break.”

Vinnitsa
July 23rd
1942


 

Camp Eingost

Life weary, yet life loves to lingers on,
At least in Warsaw some know family,
One morning the SS form a cordon
To take away the old ones forcibly;
“You will be sent
To safe & special camp,”
Laughing inside they meant extinguishing life’s lamp.

The Starbearers pack tight without
Water nor ventilation,
Days trundle by ’til rough shout “Out!”
A primitive train station,
Old Hersz is fill’d with gnawing doubt
At the explanation
That for these showers they must strip to skin,
He kiss’d his Kaiser’s cross & crept within.

The Harikvah soon screaming roar,
As hissing swirl’d the gas,
Squirm, writhe & claw… alive no more
They search’d each mouth & ass,
& form’d possession-mountains, ditching deep the warm corpses.

Treblinka
July 22nd
1942


 

Desert Surge

With grey arm twisted over a green face
The dust of passing trucks swirls over him,
Lying by the roadside in his proper place
Gavin Ewart

On a day suffocating & stormy,
Resplendant bloom’d the Rose of Jericho,
Til’ crush’d beneath grinding machinery
Of Afrikans advancing row by row;
Led by Rommel,
Darling of the masses,
To conquer the Kanal & claim the Caucasus.

With flair & flourish he attack’d
Across hard & calcin’d earth,
Battle’s hot, corrosive impact
His to steer by right of birth,
Tobruk’s quicksand captured intact,
Much bloodspill mark it’s worth,
A port from which a warring conqueror
Could drive the British out of Africa.

To Alamein the Eighth withdraw,
Digging-in defences,
Midst Cairo’s War th’embassadour
Urns his secret papers…
The fleet, from Alexandria, flees for safer harbours.

Egypt
August 7th
1942


 

Malta Starved

There was no spring in Malta, forty-two,
For what grows on an active volcano?
When freshest water was the dusty dew
Blown in by senses-seizing Sirrocco;
No food to spare,
When pets gaurded by guns,
When just the prickly pear replaced those sunken tonnes,

When sirens sound incessantly
When rampant typhus fever,
When fighters came from Italy
& no-one dared relieve her,
At this frontier of liberty,
Even the believer
Grew weary at the hunger & the stench,
Til mass restored her heart with stoic wrench.

How long can an island nation
Bide her tongue & suffer?
As starvation & salvation
Oer grim futures hover –
When lacking arks of flour & oil soon they must surrender!

Malta
August
1942


 

Montgomery

The world is at arms, the world is ablaze,
Nigh ev’ry man now forced to choose a side,
What days are these? These are darkest of days,
Stripping a man of dignity & pride;
The battle lines
To breaking point pull’d taut,
Der Fuhrer’s grand designs to be or be distraught.

Churchill threw the pink-skinn’d Monty
On imperial mission,
Stood before the beige Eighth army,
“We must win by attrition,
Defend the Nile from the blue sea
Down to the Depression…”
His troops enter’d an oasis of calm
In whose auspices they must face no harm.

All round the village rose the purr
Of Shermans beautiful
With knowing burr, the spirits stir,
“Sole way to slay Rommel…
Dig ‘em in along Alem el Halfa at the double!”

El Alamein
August 25th
1942


 

Stalin’s City

The Sixth Army thunders to the Volga,
The Swastika hoisted over Elbrus,
In front – unending acres of Asia,
Behind – the widest wake of conquerors;
Resting their flank
Upon the deep, dark Don,
Onwards advanced each tank, onwards & ever on!

With sleeves roll’d up, sporting short pants,
On mountain slope stood Willie,
Watching apartments, parks & plants
Of this white cubist city,
The first hint of caution supplants
Invincibility!
For infesting the city & the plain,
The Red Army seems set to fight again.

Above shored-up defences pour
Fourth Richtofen Air Fleet,
Planes by the score have brought the War
To level ev’ry street,
The will Man gains to resist ills soul-temper’d in the heat.

Stalingrad
August 23rd
1942


 

Black Gold

A flight of spitfire falls from sommer sky,
Lands as precisely as migrating drake
On isles astride the highway of supply,
All alone in this hostile Axis lake;
Thro’ constant fire
Men bounden by belief,
That captains of empire must Malta send relief.

Harbours fill’d with eager children
With sad & weary farmers,
Cut short nervous conversation
To raise cheers for Port Chalmers,
The Stars of Melbourne & Brisbane,
Were with shatter’d armours –
Survivors of the keystone of the war,
Then the Rochester Castle made them four!

The convoy limp’d, or tow’d to port,
Join’d by vital tanker,
Tho’ ten ships short brave sailors brought
Salvation to anchor,
Soon submarines refuel, scent an Axis ship & sank her!

The Mediterranean Sea
September 15th
1942


 

Guadalcanal

America, at last, enters battle,
Aslant volcanic isle rainforested,
Strange & stagnant, humid, pestilential,
By lizards & swarm’d insects infested;
When bugles blare,
Comes forth the fierce attack,
Banzais scything thro air silenced by CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

Men fought on with furious rage
Midst the giant hardwood trees,
Mottl’d by squawking foliage,
Warm swamp-waters tickling knees,
Where, fell’d by Wars that others wage,
Full riddl’d with disease’
The last thing many marines would have seen
Were piercing chrystals’ fanatical glean!

Up, up went Nippon’s battlecry
Along the Bloody Ridge,
“Banzai!” “Banzai!” “Maline you die!”
Six hard days of carnage,
But like brave Barnes at Gettysburg defenders would not budge.

Solomon Islands
September 14th
1942


 

Urban Crucible

Paulus puts down the phone on der Fuhrer,
Flame-eyed gen’rals await its decision,
“Incontent for us to reach the Volga,
Each brick of this damn’d city must be won!”
With cautious voice
He order’d the advance,
Restricted of all choice, condemn’d to court with chance.

Immazed the Drang Nach Osten’s flow
All in the armpit carcass,
This hellish huge, grey grain silo,
Held by ragged defenders,
Dread lingers in the vast shadow,
Wylde shots blast at noises –
Where rages vicious hand-to-hand combat
In sewer, stairwell, cellar, shop-front, flat.

Pity the poor civilian,
Courageous troglodyte,
An alien subt’ranean
Defending its birthright,
This is its city, its property, its striving, its fight.

Stalingrad
September 19th
1942

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

Canto 17: Breaking Point


The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient & dangerous of human illusions
Robert Lynd


 

Summiteers

An old man dragg’d his bulk acrosss the sands,
Broke off beside the barb’d perimeter,
Over-clambouring legs, wires dug in his hands,
At once he’s accosted by a soldier;
“Hold it right there…
O my god, you’re Churchill!
The PM gave his stare, that MP frozen still.

He took, by Rooseveldt, his seat,
Discussing of the future,
“To German cities we must mete
The full wrath of the bomber!”
“Aye, until Germany’s defeat
& total surrender,
To free Europe all our deeds must measure –
We may destroy Japan at our leisure.”

They left the villas for the sun
There soldiers to review,
Nigh ev’ryone American,
The fighters Yankee too,
Roaring oerhead, defenders of the world’s most crucial two.

Casablanca
January 27th
1943


 

War at Sea

Radar destroyed, aerials ripped,
And, forward, the sea stripping
The Mess decks, spilling over tables
Alan Ross

***

“Up periscope!” unveils a killing ground,
By Seawolves circl’d in their hungry packs,
The feast is set, smoke plumes curl’d all around,
The silence broken, ev’rywhere… attacks!
Cold & enpearl’d
Submariner deep rides,
Bellum Navale swirl’d beneath the whirling tides.

With heavy beard & nerves half shot
Xaver cursed his dank abode,
Oftimes his stomach gripp’d a knot
As the depth-charges explode,
But when a new course he did plot
& foemen torpedoed,
He felt his place within warring nations,
Claxons caterwaul … to action stations!

Elizabeth sinks! Jack Sumner’s
Clothes sea-salt saturates,
Haul’d by shoulders, joins the others,
Last lot of his shipmates,
Cramm’d in a bulging, wooden boat to contemplate their fates.

North Sea
February 1st
1943


 

Pendulum Turns

And there before the night, he was aware
of the flayed fields of home, & black with ruin
The helpful earth under the tracks of tanks
Sidney Keyes

From the depths of a tractor factory
Rose a crackling corp’ral’s rattling broadcast,
Reaching within each German eaterie,
“Der Fatherland, der Fuhrer to the last!”
Lost & alone,
“Why are we forsaken?”
All animals hath flown, endure here only men.

Ivan came in ev’rywhereness,
“Hund wollt ihr ewig leben?”
In kingly, heroistic dress
Willie urges on his men,
Thro’ daunting danger & duress
Til all quell’d well, & then
He sits with his wife’s photo one last time,
Last round blows out his brains, walls coat with slime.

Paulus grappl’d with cruel conscience,
Cow’ring in the corner,
Christian sense curtails defence,
Consenting surrender,
How glad that captured mass of men meant for Siberia.

Stalingrad
February 2nd
1943


 

Death of Jack Sumner

The rage of armies is a shame of boys;
A hero’s panic or a coward’s whim
Is triggered by nerve or nervousness
Louis Simpson

They rais’d their spirits with an old sing-song,
Soon silenced by surfacing submarine,
At once old sailors knew something was wrong,
Those long, square-jaw’d faces far too serene;
Cold reasoning,
Der Fuhrer’s directive,
“Pity is burdening, let no opponent live.”

Sighting muzzles upon them aimed
Fuel enough for frighten’d flap,
We are unarm’d, ye not ashamed!?”
Blonde rating straighten’d his cap,
Took four bullets, bloody & maim’d,
Croak’d, “Cheerio old chap!”
To this miraculously unhurt Jack,
Led breathless, daring not to answer back…

As Xaver survey’d the murder
He caught a faint movement…
As a Stemmler slays a Sumner,
Now unambivalent,
The goddess KARMA flit the scene & to another went.

Atlantic Ocean
February 3rd
1943


 

Death of Xaver Stemmler

Between the gem-hung velvert of the waves,
Our sires & grandsires in their green flesh start,
Bend skinny elbows, warn: “We have no graves…
Roy Fuller

E’er since the battle of Trafalgar Bay,
Those vigilant, oak-hull’d leviathans
Have held the Oceans in an Island’s sway,
“England expects!” ev’ry battle stations;
Night turns to day,
Depth-charge splash each quarter,
The decks awash with spray as under the water

Wee submarines are toss’d about,
BOOM-BOOM-BOOOOM & BOOM again,
Some sub-aquatic boxing bout…
Like fountains in a garden
Seawater spouts fill with grave doubt
Entrapp’d & frighten’d men…
Men coat their trousers in a cruddy goo,
As ships ripp’d up & simply flipp’d in two.

Almighty Ocean rushes in,
Thetis astride the bull,
Cat’clysmic din, Xaver aspin,
What weight crushes his skull,
To sleep the deep forever in the cold crypt of that hull.

The Atlantic Ocean
February
1943


 

Colonel Wingate

Burma… fresh bane of the British army,
Catalogue of defeat & disaster,
Receives a maverick visionary,
Determin’d to restore his land’s honour;
Daring designs
Regaled with sure surmise,
“Let me break thro’ the lines, harassing their supplies…”

He enlisted common scousers,
La, full of life & gobby,
Alchemied with Nepal’s Ghurkas
Busk’d in a dusky khaki,
He put them thro’ strictest paces,
Three months purgatory…
Gen’ral Wavell visits one stormy day,
Inspects them then salutes them on their way.

The vanguard of the re-conquest
Fords the Chindwin river,
Chain’d to the best, by good lord bless’d,
Sporting an umbrella,
“You never know when needed when tropical the weather!”

The Raj
February
1943


 

Death of Franz Grunfeld

Surely the past from which the letters rise
Is waiting in the future, past the graves?
The soldiers are all haunted by their lives.
Randall Jarrell

Years-on-years of uncheck’d persecution,
A brave few – finally – have lit the fuse,
Grenades & guns quite smartly smuggl’d in,
For this uncork’d uprising of the Jews;
The bullets fly
Into the German grey,
Better to fight & die than wait your murder-day.

Karl & his cousin, side-by-side,
Sense David interstellar,
When Philistine Goliath died
Beside the vale of Elah,
But SS swarming every side
Rat-trapp’d in a cellar,
Them Judah lions roaring in a cage,
Til flamethrowers incinerate their rage.

Above them, thro’ the smoky grates,
Gaurds resume their stations,
Thro hostile gates accelerates
Daily deportations,
As if lived Nebuchadnezzar thro’ these new migrations.

Warsaw
March
1943


 

Rebel Mountain

Among the shaggy hills of Montenegro
Hid ‘The Bandit’ & his apparitions,
One hundred thousand Reichsmarks for Tito,
Tying down thirty German divisions;
Force fed on zeal,
Typhus on sick parade
Despite desp’rate appeal Stalin shall send no aid.

A Wellington pass’d overhead,
Coughs drifting parachuter,
Dangling upon a nylon thread
Gangly English officer,
Donning the red cap, promptly said,
“Take me to your leader!”
(Tito laughs at that daft scarlet beret)
“You have put on a wizard show, I say!

I’m from Secret Operation’s
Special Executive,
With permission, your position,
To London I shall give,
Follow’d by airdrops & enough for you & yours to live!”

Yugoslavia
April
1943


 

Colonel Wingate

Thro’ delphic idyll of watery shades
Japanese lackeys track-tread sweat-streaming,
A mountain gibbon’s gibber flies & fades,
God’s artistry sweeps oer mortals dreaming;
Sly Ghurka stands
Up, up, from ground, unseen,
Sticking his dagger’d hands thro’ windpipe, throat & spleen.

The day’s bland meal had just been pann’d,
Bamboo shoots & curried snake,
A captain joins his battle-band
On a well-earn’d lazing break,
With blade & bible in each hand,
The fourth course we shall take!
We’ll ram them up the barrel of a gun,
Keeping those bleedin’ rascals on the run!”

The railway line was blown to bits,
Up went a furore.
Each Chindit splits, a freak shot hits
The ghurkha in a knee,
Such injuries could slay his mates – “Go, go on without me…”

Burma
April
1943

Canto 18: Deadlock


This hungry war opens his vasty jaws
Shakespeare


 

Desert War

Only the blind and stubborn hope to track
This wilderness. The thoughtful leave their bones
In windy foodless meadows of despair
Sidney Keyes

Rommel retreats into Tunisia,
Romantic lands of Hannibal’s Carthage,
Scrapp’d out by Roman, Vandal & Berber,
Inspiring War, beautiful War, to wage;
Then takes his last
Glance over Africa,
The vital days are pass’d, now to face Der Fuhrer.

Our young Sumner enters a room,
To bivouac there nightly,
Sauce bottle moved, boobytrap <BOOM>
The poor sod copp’d a blighty…
Soon led thro sad hospital gloom,
Leg sawn off at the knee,
From clench’d fingers the surgeon eas’d his gun,
Tom stared back blankly, “Yer goin’ home son!”

The Via Balbia is strewn
With hulks & jerricans,
The Arabs’ boon, from sten to spoon,
Bedecking caravans,
Nearby… Anthracite corpses rot forgotten in the sands.

Libya
May 15th
1943


 

Chindits

As pair of lamplit eyes camp in the skies,
“Boss, up there, its a Wellington bomber,”
Breaking cover to bring them fresh supplies,
Harass’d by the rat-a-tat & motar;
The call to go,
Swashbuckling nigh complete
Sharing out the ammo they rise on weary feet,

Then set forth forth for India
Form detachments small & sleek,
With the crazed Japanese soldier
Playing games of hide & seek,
All their mules & oxen hayster
For the’d all grown too weak:
Behind, the jungle’s cool neutrality
Had left, for them, a kind of victory

Hacking rough paths thro’ Jungle dense
By webs & drooping snakes
Tho tired & tense their fine-tuned sense
Always the right road takes
Til one-by-one they burst upon their goal as thin as rakes.

Irrawady River
May
1943


 

Dambusters

Europa’s moon looks brilliant tonight,
Peaceful apart from the lilted whirring
Of Lancaster fleet in full & well-form’d flight,
Splendid rows of Rolls Royce engines purring;
Wheeling around,
They face the Molder Dam,
Where with a whooshing sound a bouncing bomb did slam

Aslant the pane, leapt up & dipt
& spun for a thousand feet,
Like flat stones on a flat sea skipp’d
Twards monolithic concrete,
Then with a monstrous thunder ripp’d
A gaping hole quite neat,
Thro’ which a vast torrential ‘gan to pour
Into the vital vallies of the Rhur.

She’d heard a pretty whirring sound,
She turn’d & she did pray,
Wild waters bound across the ground
Her screaming swept away,
With cars & trees & homes livestock reeling in the sway.

Mohne
May 17th
1943


 

Lost at Sea

After the death spelt out in headlines, after the gains
Broadcast by the dispassionate voices,
Comes word to a village
John Pudney

***

Freda & Rose arriv’d at the butchers,
Sov’reigns & ha’pennys stretching round the back,
Where, as they went shuffling to the counters,
Foze Freda by a vision of ‘er Jack;
Pellucid glow,
Flank’d by blue guardian,
“Rose, love, we’ve gotta go… forget bloody bacon!”

Boy soldiers play War midst sandbags,
Down Cog Lane a telegram,
Some Azrael along the flags…
Maggie drops ‘er jar of jam,
Flush-hot, slips on her pumps & rags,
Rush’d out to find ‘er mam…
Collar’d with Granny flappin’ down the street,
For sev’ral seconds cold hearts lost their beat…

“Our Jack is missing, presumed dead!”
The ‘ole street ‘eard ‘er shout,
Base fears that fed on common dread,
Calamity & doubt
Are rude-releas’d into the world while scrikin’ ‘er eyes out.

Burnley
May
1943


 

Secret War

At England’s heart there stands a splendid house,
Both Oxford & Cambridge equidistant,
Grounds hush’d more than a sleeping harvest mouse,
The fine façade stately & innocent;
But step within,
A new world is reveal’d,T
he day’s work shall begin for England’s unseen shield.

Crack team of elite specialists
Work hard on the ENIGMA,
Chess masters & cryptologists,
An expert crossword puzzler,
Mathematicians, star linguists
Brought from America,
To decode the unbreakable machine…
If Germany but knew she would go green!

“With but one panzer division
Reserve in Sicily,
The battle’s won before begun!”
She pour’d a pot of tea,
“As Sun Tzu said, To win a war first know thine enemy.”

Bletchley Park
June
1943


 

Invasion of Italy

“What is it all for, love & peace & war,
When both the wide way’d Earth & Man’s action
Remain as constant as the Northern star?”
Muse three old, mid-day crones down the station;
Their wise old eye
Translates the censor’d news,
Watching the trains pass by pack’d with Palermo’s Jews.

From harbours of Tunisia
Arab maidens sang goodbyes
To a fabulous flotilla
Form’d to ferry the Allies
To sandy old Sicilia,
Neath luscious sommerskies,
Overwhelming the unprepared beaches
Of shell-shock’d, co-axial defenders.

The scenery invokes the gleam
Of early Punic Wars,
When first the dream, by hawk Tireme,
Floats yon the Roman shores,
Spreading Hellenic legacy – cultura, learning, laws.

Panormus
July 10th
1943


 

General Patton

Patton hot-steps upon the Gela plain,
With shoulder-pads & ego equal wide,
Ambitious utterly for this campaign,
A contest perfect for his buxom pride;
His bow unbent
No foeman could withstand,
As Axis soldiers sent skidaddling inland.

The general struts ‘cross the stage
In a shiny, armour’d car,
All round his green swards come of age,
Death’s incisions maim & mar,
Envisioning a full front page
Lures him like a lodestar,
“Step to it boys, come on, the Truman Trot!”
“Geeze boss, five miles an hour, its far too hot.”

The city chants, ecstatical,
“Down with Mussolini!”
Once beautiful the capital
Of citrus Sicily,
In war’s rough wake looks dead & lifeless like a leafless tree.

Palermo
July 23rd
1943


 

Escape from Colditz

Bligh look’d upon the verdant Molden vale,
Sheer schloss serenely firmamentward shoots,
So foreboding he grew a chloric pale,
Heart sinking to the bottom of his boots;
Oflag IVC,
Cold castle for bad boys,
Broad gates bolted firmly with such soul-scarring noise.

Oer the claustrophobic courtyard,
After evening’s cramp’d apell,
He watch’d the patterns of the guard,
Felt familiar feelings swell,
“I’ve made a plan, it sounds quite hard,
But best give it a bell!”
He told the season’d escape officer,
“Yes, good luck, it’s time we hit another…”

Nigel appear’d quite debonair
In German uniform,
Snook down the stair with perfect care,
Dropp’d where bright flashlights comb,
Brush’d off the dust, saunter’d outside & headed off for home.

Germany
July
1943


 

Turning Tide

When the all-clear sounds- he falls fast asleep,
When reveille sounds- he jumps up like a nail…
When the signal is ‘advance!’ he advances
Aleksandr Trifonovich Tvardovsky

***

Kertsch morphing from hope to emergency,
Its little instigator keeps his cool,
Whittling away this news from Sicily,
“It must be a feint, they think me a fool!”
”Turn from assault,
From now spurn all attacks,
In Balkan hills we’ll halt the Allies in their tracks!”

With all reserves from the coop flown,
The Wehrmacht cuts its losses,
Their Eastern Front by barrage blown,
Then sliced in two by sappers,
All round them enemy hath grown,
Asiatic faces:
A Turkestani waves the red flag high,
Storming the bridge ice-shrapnel splic’d his eye…

…so drops the flag, soon brandish’d proud
Wave’d by some Kamchatkan,
Pick’d from the crowd, a bullet cloud
Slays in decimation –
Flag rais’d by an Irkutski, always forward to Berlin!

Suska
July 12th
1943