France & Germany back

The Road To Falaise – 1944

Summer air lies heavy and sad
Upon splintered trees of apple orchards;
Far away, like distant thunder
Heralding approaching summer storms,
Guns, grumbling and growling
Disgorge their progeny;
Rapists of the sad Norman sky,
Whistling obscenely as they fly
To fall among other men such as we,
Who hear their flight.

High on their bankings,
Stark 'gainst pale dawn's light,
Hedgerows shroud the Shermans,
Screen the fearsome Tiger.
Of a sudden noise erupts,
Tigers cough Shermans roar,
Sun now risen the hunt begins anew;
Pummelled earth churns
As armour lurches into ponderous motion,
Grinding, clangorous, rackety clatter.

Turrets swivel as gunners aim and fire,
The Seventy-Fives bark,
Entrenched, foetal curled,
We who are earthbound
Await the howling sense reeling crescendo
Of the Eighty-Eights reply.
Up above Tommy and Fritz will die –
Doomed to stew in Pyrotechnic brew.

From vantage points in copse or hedge,
The Spandau's incessant chatter
Spills forth Death's tiny messengers;
They, scything through tall grass
Go whispering by –
Or pause to bite.
Some feel their sting and cry:
Some feel nothing – just fall and die.

In green fields cows lie – supine,
Bellies distended, legs stiff to the sky;
As they burst stink permeates,
We, crouched in dip or ditch
Light our Woodbines, inhale sweetness-wait.
Soon radios, superimposed like camels' humps
Onto men's backs, issue orders;
We press on towards distant rising smoke,
Reaching, as if in supplication
To some vengeful god – begging mercy.

At the village those other men have gone.
Among smoking embers, amidst the debris
Abandoned treasures lie,
Photographs in shattered frames,
A doll, a littered bed;
Simple folk caught in battle's ebb have fled.
A cat, lost, frightened, darts,
A dead dog blindly stares,
No friendly bark to speed us on,
As overhead Typhoons scream;
Spewing death.

We follow in their wake,
Along roadsides in dry ditches
Lie grey clad bodies,
Mangled horses, broken carts,
Entwined in grotesque tableaux of mortality;
We pass by with scarce a glance
This bloodstained Tapestry of France.
For Death's familiarity breeds a numbing of the mind;
That will not cease, until at journey's end,
We find the gift of peace. back

• Text © T. E. McAuley 2005 •
• HTML/PHP Code © K. McAuley 2005 •