David Kessel

Arnhem
In memory of my father, Lippy, a battlefront surgeon at Arnhem

Tommy dropped and copped the lot; Hitler, Churchill, Stalin.
‘No use’ he thought, his inalienable Anglian guts lying across his sten;
Uncanny how he felt no pain in his dying guts, only an
unbearable pain in his heart for his Suffolk Daisy.

‘No use Tommy’ the Dutch nurse said calmly, passionately
carressing his fingers.
‘Uncanny’ the crow thought, as it watched the fourth battalion being mown down
  north of the railway line,
‘How the best of humanity are murdered for nothing’.
At the fatal bridge a dying corporal asked for a butt
‘You’ll be lucky’ the Sergeant said, ‘Fatal command structure’.

In the Cauldron the independent company fought with lonely arable courage
Down to twenty and like Lilburne won’t be beaten.

Whilst over the river Jerzy* copped it in the chest
A thousand miles from the hell of Poland to the hell of Arnhem.

*Polish name for John

For Drummond Allison

The rain is falling within, bitter rain.
Bitterness is our food, rusted iron,
And the savage cries of geese over a grey river.
The bullet that stopped you turned your rusted words
Into crying songs for these icy dissonant years;
Heathland across our corrupt splintered cities.
The corruption of the flesh and the purity of a race
Long-since guilty of rape and double-dealing
In desperate high-streets and iron fields,
Lives of crass expectation and bloody illusions
In emblemed homes fenced against the planetary wind
And the sighing earth. The rain is falling
On chipshop and battlefield, and the estuary
Of your pain flows worldly into the gulled ocean.

David Kessel © 2006/08
from David Kessel's O the Windows of the Books Shop Must Be Broken - Collected Poems 1970 - 2006 
(Ed. Alan Morrison, Survivors' Press, 2006)