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In the Pocket

He lined-up to pot the black in the top-right pocket,
Looking down his cue as a sniper-rifle sight,
Fixing his target dead in the cross-hairs.
Trigger-elbow cocked
He squeezed off the shot
Watching impassively
As his prey
Took the fall
And sank off the surface.

In ’44, the occupying German armies
Were cornered in a topographic trap:
At Falaise, the Allied ‘cushions’
Distorted the table to triangular
And herded the Wehrmacht and SS
‘Balls’ that were still in play
Towards the singular, gaping, yawning,
Apex pocket.

By all accounts a turkey-shoot.
Typhoons, Spits, Hurricanes and Mustangs:
The airborne Four Horseman
Of that once-proud Army’s apocalypse,
Reigning unopposed in the air
Strafing anything grey and still moving.
Every hedgerow, hillock and hamlet
A do or die,
A him or me,
A his or mine.
As many did as died
At this turning of the tide.

The result no longer in doubt –
Still no surrender:
Only rout.
Losers nothing left to give
But their lives,
Fearful telegramms
To fallen winners’ wives
Trying vainly to justify such sacrifice
Which could never, ever, have been worth the price.

Victor and vanquished:
Both paid the cost.
Both sides lost.