Vergeltungswaffe Drei

You could never even imagine "three million." It is a small
      knot of people who will be familiar to you, will have given to
            you "as the world gives;" and tell me, did you know
You can be fascinated with trees, like "a savage staring at a
      ship;" murderers, when their histories are researched, are shown to have drunk
            Pepsi and to have felt better each green Spring, just as we
                  folks do who read of their arraignments in the papers.
And you can tell those who can never be familiar to you about
      what you've only dreamed, and hope it explodes in that far Them, takes flight with them,
As all simpler folk do, themselves, when talking at the level of God. What if
      you stitched wings, flew, chewed a hole in your chimeric sky
            and found nothing behind the Show at all? But no. Only at ground-zero, where no one
                  could hope to have heard the whir of your Will coming, only Out There,
By the thousands or millions, can the things you craft to send
      rise high enough to fall among the people
And explode.

I  1944

I don't know what they are, Sir. Scott first saw them taking
      shape late in the Winter; you have to forgive me, because he was
            mainly afroth at another warm year's chance at a Camberwell
                  Beauty—dashed daft things that men seize upon
                        to get them through a war! He's a butterfly fanatic,
                              Sir—that's what I'm saying. In the midst
                                    of some rubbish about wings, he said something'd
                                          been set up over 'long the Pas-de-Calais,
                                                something he feared was connected with
                                                      flying, but of a different sort than

Pull off your best dress, luv, and let us further the race. I don't
      know how many drunks there are in wheelchairs, but I can tell
            you that there are hundreds who tonight are on their feet. I
                  have a brother who saw his best friend blown to rags
                        by a German plane that he clocked at over 500 miles
                              per hour. Is the Fuehrer now manipulating our minds by radio?
                                    Nothing, nothing, nothing is that fast, safe for bats out
                                          of Hell. And Jimmy dead. I'd feel better if
                                                the killer had known his name,
Or vice versa.

II  Peenemünde

They're not going to cite this place on maps, later.

Oh, no, no, no, no, no, I can't imagine a place the size of Berlin, nor its millions,
      but we have our orders, and we shall erase them. That's good—consider Britain
            a cartographic error we cannot directly see. If this thing works, and works well, we
                  shall build one sturdy enough to cross the Atlantic. I cannot
                        sleep at night, v. Braun, I cannot bear the stench of
                              what drifts here to us from across the Baltic. We should tell stories
                                    to make it smell better. Me? I started
                                          working in small in watches, and now my greatest work
                                                is a bird with a belly full of alcohol and
                                                      air. Those ones they made further in on the
                                                            mainland, the ones that scream
                                                                  when they fall—at least the limeys
                                                                        hear them coming! At least they
                                                                              hear a sound, and know
                                                                                    they are about to die. This?
It stills too much of Mercy. Still,
Only a small knot gone, though; a city block, a group familiar. Nothing
      wholesale. I'd like to now who, and their stories, and how
            they prayed to Christ. I could win a promotion storying such detail.

At dusk, and the Moon is rising earlier this part of the year, we shall issue
      the first order to begin cartage to Calais. Alcohol and oxygen,
            beer and skittles, alcohol and air. Sounds like the British
                  all over, eh, doesn't it, blitzed by alcohol and air? The Fuehrer would
                        laugh, would deign to applaud, would be amused.

III  Love and Air

We cannot have bombed out all of the synthetic fuel along the Rhine.
Hitler blundered with the Me262, but he has realised his folly now
      and the frigging things'll be blowing our Spitfires into showers of
            chaff. And yet, somehow, I have dreams of them, in rows on tarmac,
                  ready, ready . . . but nothing in their guts. And have we yet
                        finished off those "mysterious erections" along the
                              Pas-de-Calais? I dread knowing; at least
                                    in keeping the Messerschmitts on their fields,
At least here we know the name and nature of the monster we
And what if whatever it is they plan to launch does not require petrol
      or kerosene? Can one ever burn air itself; can they fuel
            them on chewed sky?
Even we have as yet been unable to tamp Faith into guns.

We have failed, Sir. They trucked something in last night, the Underground
      said by radio. But we have become adept at hymns,
            at our own rockets and 70-Megacycle radar, and with prayers to
                  Christ we shall continue to pot the buzz-bombs down. "Not as
                        the world gives"—He shall give us strength in our millions,
                              through the familiarity of His story, His hand on our wheels,
                                    and, from the stout grain He giveth, a good belt now and then—
And a good woman's love.
And air. The Germans have been unable to cut off our supply of air.

IV  Vergeltungswaffe Zwo

Good God, her face is blown off!
      and did anyone hear or see what fell? What has happened
            to my mind? How many shall fall? Do the makers
                  of such monsters have human names? How could anyone
                        familiar enough to someone else to have been
                              christened with a name send something so
                                    ghastly to other souls from afar? Call it just!? For who?
And has anyone ever believed what they have never seen or
      known? No, no , never, it's terrible. This is an end for
            all minds. They send things to explode among people
                  they'll never know...

Minister, after all has been tolled we count over 30,000 hurt by the
      sky. I put it this way because that is the way
            it seems to the people—that they were killed by air, by the sky
                  itself. They never see or hear anything. God in
                        Heaven!—these insane machines fall at 3,000
                              miles per hour! They blast a city block to ruin,
                                    and then the sound of their arrival heels up like a dog
                                          and grins—are poets going to be able
                                                to live with this, with us, with themselves, after
                                                      this war? If they shall, they they
                                                            shall not write of us, then they
                                                                  shall choose something else—
Something that cannot call their names. Because that's something
      I've learned in this war, Minister—if you hate anyone,
            or any group of people, you have above all having to realize
                  that they are like you; and if you must kill them,
                        for any reason at all, you hate, above all, having known
                              their names.

V  A Berlin Poem of *d*lf H*tl*r

The only rule of the house
Is that there are no visible firearms at the tables of our
      feasts. We dine on stories
            of how our conquered pray to their God even as their blessed sky falls
                  and we clean our teeth free of the stain
                        of a million far lives implicit in such supplies
                              of imported food.

As if with the searing sanguine thread of Radio I have dreamt as being there
      to pulse a race's watches astep to my Time,
            I close the ring of my Will
                  and they themselves step; even as I sleep; and even as I sleep;
I have seen them Love me and Hate me
      from afar—call my name, yes,
            even as I sleep.

I love what flies, and falls, and I love
      what people believe
And how these mix to give me my Power
And I hate their names, but am amused.

In a book I might write, I shall say, "I had an unusual
      experience! . . ." and my readers would laugh. What is unusual for
            me? What do I, a god to them, consider funny, or spiritual?—oh,
A funny thing happened to me on my way to Berlin . . .

VI  1945

Put on your finest face, my love, and let us get down to the
      business of furthering the race. Hundreds tonight could be drunk with
            you, instead of mere alcohol or Spring air—here is a pen.
Wasps make paper, and live in it. They live in it, and we write
      on it, or clean. And what we write, we write of things
            that are of no account—farmers, for instance, are free to blame the
Rain, or the Weather, primarily for the reason that these
      grand institutions cannot be reached for comment. We write blather.
And what we write, we send off to be bound and packaged by
      the hundreds and thousands, with a careless finality shared only by the
            designers of bombs. And then the presses whir with the gnaw of a Need,
                  or, more horribly,
A whim.

I have been told, for instance, by someone I've never seen, that plants can receive love
      from the stars. Boom. I have been told to seek something
            Happened and be devoted to it, and to call such Devotion
                  Innocence. As you wish. You tell me, fellow bomber, that such
                        a quest cleanses you of the City and all the dreariness
                              that Man entails, of the God that is inferred
                                    to keep it all rolling..?
But wait, I do not know you—and never will, as neither shall your each
      and every lover—so why do you so tell me? And anyway the truth is
            that "us," this Race—we—have Happened as purely as has any tree.
And I am devoted to Us as phenomenon. So am I innocent, then, through
      such devotion? No. Not if I spoil friends' dinners, not if I
            exhibit myself in this ritual in front of the children, not if I burst

You are a Writer, say: At home, the familiar knot reminds you that
      they neither love, are amused, nor seek you for your limelit
            madness, because you are home-grown and, to them, you have,
                  after all, refrained from setting up your gantries
                        to shoot the works of your Work into their midst;
                              and the turkey is served, fattened and slaughtered
                                    by someone else,
                                          but in this society we are permitted to wash
                                                our own hands of this, and eat clean death;
And some child draws names or faces in the steam on the windows,
      has her hand slapped: "Now I'll have to wash the
            whole window tomorrow;"
The banter is of ice-hockey
      and trees down—a few—on the road through the
Here, you make your sweet love to low ritual
      and are unnamed, and Needed
They don't talk much, really, of "how goes it" with your writing, because
      such talk is, to them, tantamount to quizzing a furloughed soldier
            as to how many lives he has had to take during
                  the way:
No guns at the table, Honey.
"Had to do it, Mom. Had to."
Ssh, dear. The children. Not here.

Oh, it was, and always will be, a Job. Everything is done with
      detached distaste, and, if you can manage a smile or a
            joke as your pen-hand trembles, you call it Joy. Your work you
                  might often connect with God, and so dance on; all systems
                        are go, and
A circle is complete; and all systems, all rings, must be closed,
      especially those of blather, and of Will.
Once, during the evening, the urge to blast a mind surfaces,
      alien as a U-boat in Boston harbor, and you think to
            thrust home a conversational point based directly on
                  research new to your literary senses,
But the thought dies on the mute tip of your tongue, and
      not in someone else's rage at your insistence to Have Been Right,
Because these are the familiar people, the people, the only real people
      who can ever do this, the people you need to need have you
            tell them nothing, their only rule of the house.

"Tell me, do you call it power?" But
They never ask, they just love;
They are a knot
      out of an unimaginable million. Someone has to be
            the in-laws of a killer, say; some have to be his or her
                  children, some his friends,
                        and one will even give you children, one day.
If you want to keep them, any of them, you must button up.
You must say nothing of your launchers in the Pas-de-Calais,
      and nothing of you there, twistedly gleeful and calling it Joy, or, worse,
      you must button up,
And tell them nothing.

They would tell you, anyway, and in no uncertain terms, that there
      is nothing to tell.
"Don't make love to your Ritual," they'd say, "slab-dab crazy in
      front of the children." Black sheep were never in style.
But there can be no mistake: as were those of ours and the
      Germans, your warheads are, and must be, tamped, honed,
            timed and armed perfectly
To detonate far away, in hearts you have need to affect but haven't the ghost of a chance
      to know—in knots of people, people who share in beer and love and air
            and have real names, who
                  you'll never see but have somehow allowed for,
                        in the marketplaces, in millionfolds you cannot
                              imagine but cannily expect to go buying,
In these folks you had to kill on the job:
All to keep the ring of your Will closed,
All in this blather, this auction of visions,
      this string of feasts 'neath light imported of dead ferns,
All in this war.

Tell me; you must tell me: if you enjoy the prospects,
      if you are amused.

Copyright © 1978, 2005 by David Newkirk. All rights reserved.