May 1940

Behind us on the road from Landrecies in the dust and his blood,

lies a French lieutenant‑colonel known only unto God.

 

His eyes burned with hate and fury.

Rather than leave him to rally French soldiers,

I decided to take this fanatic with me in my Panzer.

Three times I demanded he surrender.

He stared past the muzzle of the main gun into my eyes

and three times he refused me.

 

The grass is green and lush and the sky

clear blue, perfect for the Luftwaffe,

but some of our fast‑marching

infantry will die of heat stroke.

 

We have defeated the enemy here in France: 

outflanked the Maginot line,

driven through the battlefields of the last war

where meters were measured in the lives of

thousands of men young with me.

 

“General Rommel, your troops are too exhausted to continue!”

“General Hoth, we have been twenty hours in the same place!

A night attack by moonlight on Arras will save blood:

ours and the enemy’s as well!” 

 

General Hoth loosens the reins and gives me my head.

 

After midnight, clear sky aglitter with stars,

we have eaten, drunk, slept in dusty uniforms,

gray-green wool salt‑stained with sweat.

 

Refueled, repaired, rearmed,

our Panzers are cauldrons for flesh and blood.

White moonlight harsh on their slab sides,

the reek of diesel thick in our nostrils,

our ears ringing with the clatter of treads,

we make all haste towards Arras under the riding moon.

 

The vast host of my division follows our iron spearhead.

And with infantry and artillery we fall upon Arras

at the rosy break of day.

 

Shelton, WA

13 September 2007

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Clear Ideas for Difficult Times

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