During the Occupation, German soldiers constructed hundreds of miles of concrete paths through the forests of the Landes in south-west France for use by motorcycle messengers…
Most days I do not think of our purpose here.
We lose ourselves in the work,
In these straight lines that cross the sand,
In the wind that blows through the tree-tops.
The days pass. We cast our blocks.
Planks set out square, pegged in place.
Ballast, sand, cement. Shovel and sweat.
Pour in the thick mixture. After,
We knock the planks aside.
Each blow rises up,
Drifts through the tree-tops
To the sea beyond.
The blocks are loosed, dead weights.
We haul and lug, lay them out,
Mile upon mile through the sand,
Straight lines through the Landes.
Sometimes we rest, lie on our backs,
Watch the clouds move above us,
Feel the earth sail the sky:
The trees are masts.
I am a lucky man.
Jan flies bombers over Coventry,
Liverpool, Swansea and London.
Gerhardt lies cold in a Russian field.
But I will live out the war here.
When victory is ours, I will go home,
Marry, and have children.
I will become an engineer.
Keith Stimpson © September 2005