Sunday, December 19, 2010

409. The Hidden Meaning of World War Two

Poor grandmama, she passed away
at the age of ninety-something,
leaving behind a house full of memories
upon which the family shortly descended
like circling crows, squabbling over
the paintings, her gewgaws, the furniture.

There was a darkly glowing Vermeer,
two Rembrandts, some Hepplewhite consoles,
and two whorls of canvas that were not altogether
but almost Turner. Also a Constable.
I came down in a taxi from the station.

Sad that the old lady’s gone, said the driver,
She were a good ‘un, I well remember her
from the First Do: Faith and Freedom.
And were you in that War yourself, I innocently asked,
and he growled and spat, said he'd been thrown
into capitalist wars throughout his fuckin life.

A touch aggrieved, I held back on a large tip,
thinking of my two dead uncles from the first show,
but when I stepped out of that car I had no idea, let me tell you,
of all that stood before me, hunched over in my tailored uniform,
owlishly peering: I was no soldier, no real bayonet-thrusting

Godblastyou crazy person. The Regular Army, in my view,
were gentlemen, not warriors, encompassing a collection
of grumbling commuters plucked from cosy civilian jobs, resigned
to typing the shit out of the enemy, in triplicate. Would you
kindly wait until you are called? Silence, please, and some decorum.

The tanks rolled over the charred steppes of Asia,
the bodies burned in Treblinka and Maidenek,
and all the while motorcycle messengers farted
and backfired into Bletchley Park, where we typed
and typed and, in a British way, quietly won the war.