world war

It’s a myth, you know, all that

home before the leaves fall.
Only the naïve believed—
   professionals knew

we were in it for the long haul.

So forget what you’ve learned
about Schlieffen  bewegungskrieg
the sinews of war were only means

by other policy.
A good treaty with Russia:
tough on Foch, soft on Moltke.

A higher calibre: unalloyed  iron.
   real war takes place  now
upon the homefront,

 melting down all knives  to marry
   Queen of Battle to a new munition:
some industry of shells—the volk

would march  compelled
to beat a drum of bones
until the goatskin broke

the ground in   scars
where blood & soil
fixed the bayonet

into a railcar ploughshare,
to be forged a sword again
when the bomber would get through;

when     tank & car
had speed enough  exploiting
open     concentrate of shock—

awaiting only gambler’s luck
to roll the bones again  & cast
the velvet glove on every front,

awaiting only this command,
&   competent  obeisant Staff—no longer
apolitical  the soldier-statesman;

once  perhaps  before the bullet,
when steel & horsemanship
had made the difference,

   professionals knew
a short war    lifetime
of training.

Home before the leaves fall.
No  more—the vacant chairs
will banquet ghosts of nations;

    telegraphed to press
unalloyed  iron-ventricle
the heart of blood & treasure,

propelling this ballistic lie
to groom the cult of glory:

dulce et decorum est
pro patria mori.


* * *

Written January 2017.

A picture of Freddie Oversteegen, a Dutch girl who was the unsuspecting killer of dozens of Nazis. Along with her friend Hannie and her sister Truus, the girls worked with a team from the Dutch Resistance to lure men into the woods for a promised kiss. Once they reached a remote location, the men got a bullet to the head instead.

Armistice Day

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, and coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.