A. Robert Prouse

 

Air Raid

"In England, in 1940, the people huddled in shelters and said, 'We can take it.' In Germany, 1944-45, the German population said likewise. Anyone being in those two countries during those troublesome times cannot in their hearts truthfully say that a prolonged bombing raid does not in time undermine their morale." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Hideous screech rends silent night,

With high-pitched wail it sings,

Warns sleeping town of dangerous plight,

Of swift death borne on wings

 

That span dark heavens lofty arc

Whilst nerves are fraught with hideous

Thoughts or horrors stark,

Torn by roar invidious.

 

In home no safety can they find;

Like animals they seek

Dubious security of a kind

In shelters cold and bleak.

 

Deep beneath the trembling ground

They await for their release,

Their breath expelled as hear the sound

That gives them temporary peace.

 

 

Captivity

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Freedom curtailed, 'tis deadly,

No life for man nor beast;

Take our wealth, pleasures or lives

But leave us this at least.

 

'Tis worth far too much, this gift of God,

For you, mere man, to take;

Make haste, return what you don't own

Lest you the Lord forsake.

 

 

Dreams

"One dreams of strange things when a prisoner. You relive the past, especially the nightmares of bombing. You dream of things that are missing in this life, lights, theatres, the fairer sex and food. The last mentioned is the most vivid. Let me tell you of one of my dreams." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

I'm eating eggs and bacon or luscious juicy steak,

Sometimes it's roast brown chicken; I don't know which to take.

And then again there's roast of pork, with apple sauce piled high;

I close my eyes and munch away, then swallow with a sigh.

 

The Yorkshire pudding goes down well, along with baked potatoes,

Drowned in rich brown gravy, with pickles and tomatoes;

Sweet green peas soon follow this and then I have a spell

To top it off with liver-fried, or lobsters in the shell.

 

When dessert comes, it's lemon pie with meringue on the crust

Or apple pie with ice cream to satisfy my lust.

I gorge myself on jellys with whipped-cream inches deep;

At sight of so much gorgeous food my eyes begin to weep.

 

The feast I've had is enormous, I'm feeling rather feint;

The dishes set before me would fill all heaven's saints.

My stomach is distended, my ears begin to ring

But matter not I'm happy, as happy as a King.

 

I'm really getting tucked right in, enjoying life in full,

When suddenly I am awake'd, my blankets roughly pulled;

I'm drooling madly at the mouth and then I start to scream

As realize just where I am and what I ate - I dreamed!

 

 

Flee Foul Flea

"In 'loving' memory of the cells in Düren and the camp at Mühlhausen". Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Where e'er you roam o'er land and sea

You're sure to find the lowly flea;

In prison camp, no longer free,

Attack in hordes both you and me

    (We cannot flee).

 

We inoffensive halt in stride,

Grab for front, for back or side;

The fleas are gnawing at our hide,

We must with patience them abide

    (They have no pride).

 

With powder, spray, rage bitter fight

Against the pests that itch and bite,

We toss and turn late into night,

Renew the hunt at dawn's first light

    (With all our might).

 

From labours we no profit reap,

In beds and clothes they crawl and creep,

Elude us with a mighty leap;

We're haggard, worn from lack of sleep

    (Dead on feet).

 

Alas! They've won the final round;

Tho' thorough search, cannot be found.

They'll still roam free, in body sound,

Whilst we lie buried deep in ground

    (Epitaph upon our mound):

 

        R.I.P.

 

The fleas have won, it is their boast

That forced were we to give up ghost.

To fleas I drink this final toast,

'That you in hell may quickly roast'.

 

 

Give and Thou Shalt Receive

"The examples of comradeship and generosity among a huge body of men who are all in the same sorry plight are well worth mentioning." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

When smile upon your face is seen

If oft' attracts an answering gleam

From passer-by whom casually met

Will not admire frown nor fret

As frown mars beauty, lacks of grace,

Draws scowl alike on other face.

 

You give of love, for which you earn

Love tenfold to you in turn.

Hatred changes men to ghouls,

Transmits itself to other fools.

 

Of passions, stoop and deeply drink;

Its returned force welds strongest link.

Give of your seed to pastures ripe;

New life is born, increase our might

To scatter seed with work-worn hand,

Enriched by food from yielding land.

 

Fear, you keep within control

Or else is felt by other soul.

Make every effort in daily work

For gold is not for those who shirk.

Hard labour pays with body-strong

And healthy mind; to do no wrong

Give body food to combat strife:

The yield is energetic life.

 

Just giving gives you returned measure

In happiness and heart-felt pleasure.

These things we know, as part of nature,

But yet must learn and then mature

The act of giving worldly good,

Treasures bought to match our moods.

 

So hard to part with, things called 'Mine',

'Twas e'er like this since ancient time.

Let's break this habit, learn to give

A mite each day, help others live,

Give when it hurts and then perceive

That what you give, 'Thou Shalt Receive'.

 

 

Heaven to H---

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

In dreams I scheme

For ways and means

To hold you in my arms.

 

At last I grasp

You in my clasp,

Enfold your lovely charms.

 

At dawn awake,

You then forsake

Me to a prison camp.

 

No longer free,

Reality

My ardour swiftly damps.

 

 

Land Of My Birth

"Many things were missed during our enforced imprisonment. All of them were embodied in a longing for our homes in Canada." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

I long for a glimpse of my homeland afar,

Of bright Northern Lights and the twinkling stars,

White blanket of snow mantled over the hills,

Clean smell of the pines and the gurgle of rills.

 

Some things are oft' missed and one is the sound

Of 'scrunch' under heel, of the snow on the ground,

The song of the sleigh-bells, soft music and sweet,

Keeping time, perfect rhythm to galloping feet.

 

The cold bite of wind whilst we thrill with the deed

Of swift flight on skis with incredible speed,

The sight of old friends, welcome smile on their face

Recall the old memories no one can replace.

 

The woods in the winter, a fairyland strange,

Wrapped in deep silence, their grandeur arranged

By God's hand who made them in varying styles

In majestic aloofness, they stretch endless miles.

 

Miss crack of the frost in the balsam and spruce,

The sight of the beaver, magnificent moose,

The glorious maple with gay, coloured leaves

And gold painted wheat tied so neatly in sheaves.

 

Oh how I long for the feelings instilled

With arrival of spring, by new life I am filled,

The soul stirring gladness of first robin's chirp,

Its throbbing red breast with love song is girt.

 

The rumbling roar as the river ice flows,

Rushing torrent of water with volume it grows,

Crushing all in its path as a battering ram

Soaring high in the air as it's caught in a jam.

 

The thrill as the snow melts, exposing the earth,

So grand to remember - a new season's birth,

After long months of winter to climax has come;

'Tis good once again to feel heat of the sun.

 

My homeland, my homeland, for you I do crave,

For 'feel' of your freedom, where no man is slave,

The tales of your history, so enriched with lore,

The breath-taking vastness of Canada's shores.

 

 

Lest We Forget

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Pay grateful tribute in silent prayer

To efforts of Red Cross;

The life would be a sad affair

Without them, total loss.

 

Tho' days seem dreary and so long

Through darkness shines a ray,

So greet the dawn with smile and song,

It's parcel issue day.

 

 

Misadventure

"In memory of a comrade, shot and killed whilst attempting escape." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Night falls black and silent, a hush is in the air,

A dark form tensely crouches, for danger is prepared;

A gentle 'twang', as wire is cut, the form glides silent thro',

Then suddenly a shot rings out, speeds to its target true.

The dark form now a part of night, silenced for all time;

He tried and failed, one asks no more, the sacrifice supreme.

 

 

My Alibi

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

To be a poet is no sin,

It lets come out what is within.

All men feel poetic flame

But few admit for fear of shame.

 

Why should man his soul compress

With secrets deep and unexposed?

Write your thoughts, release the spring

Of tumult, deep emotions bring.

 

 

Nature's Tricks

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

In this our daily life

Strange incidents are seen,

The tragic and the comic

Float 'fore us as a dream:

 

Men seen sitting brooding,

Deep frown upon their face;

Others are light-hearted,

With smile you can't displace.

 

There's some that we call 'bomb happy',

Not meaning any harm;

Others have the barbed-wire blues;

For them, life lost its charm.

 

There's men who are disfigured,

Plus others maimed for life;

'Tis pitiful for one to see

Results of war and strife.

 

        -    -    -

 

We've learned our hunger to control

And try hard to restrain

Our other natural appetites

From which we must abstain.

 

The theme of this is 'morals',

'Gainst which we rage fierce fight;

The ugly acts of some we see

Cause panic, mental fright.

 

Unnatural emotions are results

Of being close confined;

We thank the Lord it's not widespread,

That most are yet refined.

 

We'd rather face the foe again,

Be blasted by their mortars,

Than have our 'nature's turn-about'

And land in 'married quarters'!

 

 

Patience - Tolerance

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

We who were so impatient within our daily lives

Have learnt with patience to await wars end and strive

For tolerance with our comrades, so that they in turn

Will tolerate our habits, different natures come to learn.

 

When something lacking in our make-up, we acquire it in time,

Then, if have a virtue, quickly pass it down the line.

These weary years of prison-life have shown each their soul,

Brought sleeping virtues to the fore, that help attain the goal

 

Of complete understanding in fellow-men placed in sorry plight

Who sorely need the comradeship to aid them in the fight

Against the cares of everyday for which we play strange ruse

To clear the air and help combat those dread 'barbed-wire blues'.

 

 

Siren Song

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

For months on end in England, we'd heard that awful wail,

Bombs and 'planes came screaming down, like so much rain and hail;

The to France it followed us, gave out nightly din

As lay in blacked-out hospital, it sang its song of sin;

And now in far-off Germany, enclosed in prison camp,

That screeching devil of the night increases in its ramp.

 

 

To Be Or Not To Be?

Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Damn oh damn

I am a man

Why do you doubt my word?

 

Can't you see

The shape of me

As pretty as a bird.

 

I may look sly

And wink my eye

At boys who pass me by

 

But can you heal

The way I feel?

I deeply sigh - 'Please try'!

 

'Tis not my fault

How earn my salt,

Leave me not forlorn,

 

When came on earth

They mixed my birth,

'Twas way that I was born!

 

 

Trip-Wire

"Sign reads: 'Anyone stepping over this trip-wire will be shot.' (The wire is knee-high and approximately twelve feet from the barbed-wire fences - in between is considered a 'no-man's land'.)." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

You've heard about the barbed-wire fence

Keeping prisoners in care

But not of 'trip-wire', stretched so tense;

Of this you must beware.

 

To step over is but child's play

But don't go waste your breath;

It only draws a shot your way

Which may result in death.

 

 

Unreasonable Reason

"The soldier in the following verse was a prisoner for five long years. He was very popular and adept at many things. One day something snapped - he could endure the waiting no longer." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Our comrade's mind is worried,

Depressed by the long, long wait:

One day he can stand it no longer,

So calmly walks through the gate.

The guard stands dumbly gaping,

His wits all dulled by hate;

By the time he sees what's coming off,

It's just that much too late.

 

But our comrade's luck just isn't in,

As he's caught not far from here;

Still bravely makes another dash

As freedom is so dear.

For his pains he's given many a blow,

'Til exhausted can stand no more;

Is then returned to his crowded 'home',

All covered in blood and gore.

 

 

Wise Bird

"On being captured after my first escape attempt, I was lodged in the cells at Arnoldsweiler, near the Belgian border. As I lay on my bunk looking through the bars, a sparrow landed on the sill and looked in at me! In the following verse, I try to describe how the incident struck me at the time." Taken from his book Ticket to Hell: via Dieppe.

 

Whilst gazing through these iron bars

A bird lands on the sill,

With cheery-chirp he greets me

His eyes with pity fill,

'What sorry plight for you, a man,

In present day and age

To find yourself so closely cooped,

Locked up in a cage'.

The humour of this reversed-role

Strikes me full and true,

My 'wings' are clipped, whilst the bird

flies free, off into the blue.

Is not this lesson enough for you,

It is for me at least,

Never again will I encage

Reptile, bird or beast.