Peter Richardson’s poem, "A Memo from Communications Division 6, Re: Soldering Garage B, Hofnagelplatz, 1942"

by Peter Richardson

A Memo from Communications Division 6,
Re: Soldering Garage B, Hofnagelplatz, 1942

Your signal corps is apologetic
and claims that despite the shortage
of beef, tobacco and anaesthetic
to critical theatres, transport glitches

must be laid at the feet of those
who believed they were being prophetic.
The talkers making the speeches,
foreseeing quick advances. None had a lick

of foresight as any numbskull can attest,
since it’s come to our attention
that boxcars leaving Berlin are too wide
to fit the Soviet gauge. Rest

assured, those of us who solder
are hustling to install rapid-crank-up
interchangeable wheel systems.
As for you, who sit there and smoulder

at the gates of Sebastopol, try,
without losing your wits in shellfire,
to butcher whatever’s on the hoof.
We’d understand if you rained hellfire

on grouchy strategists with a master plan.
If rail links hadn’t been botched
you’d be home on furlough. Every man
and officer. It’s true. Whereas

now it looks like none of us will be spared,
as trains queue up for conversion
with fewer of us on shift. All the same,
we hope you haven’t compared

us to the talkers, as we equip more wagons
with safe-lock double wheels
and drain a whole lot fewer flagons
in commiseration with what

surely must be a rock and a hard place
for recruits such as yourselves,
boiling rats and cabbage. We remain
your best servants in the race.

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published in Arc 65

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