by George Green

George Green

Five-hundred bombers dropped twelve-thousand tons
of high explosives on the ancient abbey,
killing the locals and letting the Germans prove
that rubble could enhance their mountain bastion.
Deep in a bunker, Richard Wilbur, cryptanalyst,

during the cataclysm half asleep,
suffered his Edgar Poe epiphany.
He thought that characters in Poe who went
by winding paths or streams or corridors
until they happened on a central vortex

or maelstrom, were symbolically enacting
the stages by which we gradually fall asleep
or enter into a visionary state
of dreams, and, while he revelated there,
above that tunnel loomed the worst of maelstroms,

where twisted goat paths, mined and booby-trapped,
would culminate in ghastly firefights
and brawls with bayonets in smoking craters.
Four long horrendous battles were required
to drive the Wehrmacht from that rocky stronghold,

and nobody got buried on those crags.
The rats who fed on corpses got too fat
to walk, while rats in flooded cellars ate
the floating casualties, gorging until
too fat to swim they drowned. Our boys trudged on

to Rome, commanded by His Royal Highness
Marcus Aurelius Clarkus, now somewhat miffed
because Churchill had criticized his spelling.
Never write “theater” for “theatre”
insisted Winston, and never “thru” for “through.”

Meanwhile, in Rome, Gigli was apprehensive.
Surely the allies wouldn’t punish him,
the greatest tenor of the century.
What had he done? Repay the flattery
of German connoisseurs (the Nazi brass)

with something like affectionate regard?
If worse should come to worst, there was a padre
who’d hide him from the pimps and homosexuals,
the cast-off mistresses, who would denounce him.
To such disgraceful shifts he was reduced.

A priest who’d hidden Jews would now hide him
from Anglo-Jewish legions at the gate.
And why survive this dreadful “liberation,”
this decadence that would at last destroy
the culture that he cherished and revered?

Last updated August 19, 2022