Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Spy in the War Museum

The original poem The Spy in the War Museum was written following Poet-in-Residence's visit a year and 4 days ago to Vienna's Military Museum in order to see amongst other things the famous Graef and Stift motor car which carried the Austrian heir to the throne to his death; to that fatal shot that is all too often reported, by the propogandists and the misinformed, as having started World War I. Of course the fatal shot did not start the war. There were many other reasons; greed, power politics, weapons manufacturing were just three of them. This is a newly revised version:

The Spy in the War Museum

finds first the glass-eyed
glass-cased moustachioed dummies
frayed and stiffly self-important;
dodderers in peacocked uniforms
with dangled sabres
and lightly pinned-on
ribbon breasted glories
beside the car,-

the Graef & Stift Doppel-Phaeton-Karosserie

with her twin headlamps perched like crocodile eyes
and her 32 horsepowers dormant under her long nose

on the rearward panel - driver's side - in black
a silver rosette
like a silver kiss
unfolded as the first bullet struck home.

And so the Austro-Hungarian soldier marches to war
shouldering his Mannlicher rifle
which he will soon learn to love
- perhaps more than his sweetheart.

Grey painted snare drums and dark grey bugles
are issued
to the loudest musicians.

Those trained in listening and shouting
are allocated field telephones
in wooden boxes
to lug around
to wind up
to bawl into.

Officers are issued with packs
of cigarettes
in flip-top hundreds.

Superior officers are issued
corona cigars
as befits the rank.

The long range Haubitz gun
weighs 21 tonnes.

Wives and children wait in line
to give up their
and other metallic bric-a-brac
to make more weapons.

Gabriele D'Annunzio circled Vienna
and scattered his poems
on the crowds below. Make Peace not War!

Wives and children wait in line
to give up their
in Fish Street -
and spodium
- even dung
will be made from bones.

Fritz with no legs
Hans with no arms
and Franz with no hands
the Spy exits
into the cold.

Enough is enough.

Glass-eyed servants to greed
cannot see
the rose petals
through the cigar smoke.

That's it.

No more to learn.

Thirty minutes after posting the above Poet-in-Residence heard the latest stomach-churning news from the so-called Holy Land. First reports speak of 155 killed and 250 injured in this damned atrocity. A brutal war is now being waged against a tiny land; against a few imprisoned people who have no food, no medicine, no water, and no resources. It is far beyond reason. It is not even self-defence. It is murder and it is madness.


  1. That first stanza conjures up the perfect image. Your last paragraph says it all. Posturing, land-grabbing - no thought whatever for human life. Nothing changes does it? Very depressing - more so because "we" had a hand in creating Israel - what a role we have played in the past - must cheer ourselves up somehow as there is so little we can do about any of it. I agree with every word you have written.

  2. well done Gwilym it's all a sad state of affairs

  3. Thanks for the comments. Much appreciated.


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