In the Christmas Tree

Sections II and V, both of which feature series of standalone lyrics, pick up There is much of the grotesque in Section III, a poem sequence titled “Virus,” in Centaur By Greg Wrenn University of Wisconsin Press Paperback.

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He took his trousers off. And then he was on her, and in her, and she felt completed by him, as though they were two halves of one single organism. Her moans turned to screams and she gave herself over, body and soul, to the man she loved, as he gave himself to her. Saffron felt an icy shock. She wrapped her arms around him, as if she could force him to stay with her. He wants it back. What difference does it make to us? The British and French have always backed down. No, not him. It will be complicated and take forever for our messages to get through. But they will, I promise.

In Cold Blood: The Last to See Them Alive | The New Yorker

He spent the last war on the front line; how could he possibly be in any danger spending this one in Switzerland? But Solomons was a Jew and Konrad von Meerbach was a fanatical Nazi, whose passion for Adolf Hitler and all his works far outweighed any considerations of loyalty, or decency. He relieved Solomons of his duties, without notice or compensation. Gerhard, however, was cut from a different cloth to his brother. Ashamed of the way that such a loyal retainer and friend had been treated, he had persuaded Konrad to give him five thousand Reichsmarks from the family trust by claiming that he wanted to buy a Mercedes sports car.

Instead, he had given the money to Isidore Solomons, and, in so doing, enabled an entire family to escape to safety in Switzerland. Within a day of first meeting Gerhard, Saffron had travelled with him to Zurich to meet Solomons. Saffron understood then that here was someone who knew the difference between right and wrong, and who was willing to act on that knowledge, whatever the consequences. It made her certain in her heart and mind alike: she had chosen the right man to love.

I swear. They made love again. She managed not to cry until the train had left the station. But then the floodgates opened as the awful truth became impos-sible to wish away any longer.


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Her love for Gerhard von Meerbach had only just begun. But she might never see him again. She might yearn for a time when they could be with one another and build a life together in peace. She might tell herself that their love would survive and their dreams would come true, and try with all her heart to believe it.


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  • But then another voice inside her asked: What chance is there of that? In less than five months, in the early hours of Friday, 1 September , Hitler unleashed the forces of Nazi Germany against Poland. Two days later, Great Britain declared war on Germany.

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    And slaughter, suffering and horror exploded across the world. Another April in another country, on an early spring evening in Saffron Courtney was wearing baggy black serge overalls that hid her figure. She leaned over the railway track and pressed the three-pound block of explosives into the hollow between the base and top rail.

    The block, comprised of six eight-ounce cartridges of Nobel , was as malleable as putty, so that Saffron could squeeze it snugly up against the metal. The night air was filled with the strong smell of almonds, the odour emanating from the nitro-glycerine-based explosives. She pushed in a length of detonating cord, onto which a one-ounce gun-cotton primer had been inserted. Once she was satisfied with its placement, she took a roll of three-quarter-inch adhesive khaki tape from her knapsack, tore a strip off with her teeth and wound it over the plastic explosive and around the track.

    She sat back on her haunches and looked up and down the track. Then she glanced at each side of the deep cutting.

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    Saffron satisfied herself that she was not being observed. For a couple of seconds she took in the peaceful, limpid beauty of a northern evening sky, its soft blue streaked with clouds in oyster colours of grey, pearl and palest pink. She breathed in air laced with the soft scent of the gorse, whose brave yellow flowers were blooming through the last patches of winter snow, and the salt and seaweed tang of the sea. The next item out of her knapsack was a metal button that was a little under two inches in diameter.

    This fitted over the rail so that the button stood proud on top of it. That alerted engine drivers to hazards up ahead, or, when conditions were foggy, let them know that they were nearing a station and should begin to slow down. No railway worker or train crewman would be surprised to see that button on the track, and it would take a close inspection before they noticed that Saffron had fixed a short length of detonating cord between the button and the block of plastic explosive. When the next train passed over the Fog-Signal Switch, the detonator would initiate the chain of detonating cord, guncotton primer and main charge.

    And all hell would break loose. The train was carrying five hundred men of the Waffen SS and it was due in less than ten minutes. If the charge went off, it would derail the train and either kill or injure many of the men on board. More importantly, it would wreck the track and block the cutting. The close confines and precipitous granite walls that hemmed everything in would add to the time and effort required to clear and repair the track, and this would severely hamper German lines of communications.

    Not yet, at any rate. But this mission should be right up your street. Take a look at this. He spread a map across the chart table that dominated one side of his spartan office. North Sea. Paddle due east, inland.

    Now, your landing point is this little bay here. He passed her a black-and-white aerial photograph. Two options: first, get out your knife, puncture the hull and sink it offshore. Then wade in. She had cut her hair shorter for easier disguise, and there was a flinty, lean composure about her, but she still retained a compelling femininity when her blue eyes blazed in a smile. You painted such a wonderful picture. Young grunted sceptically, though Saffron knew that he was rather pleased by her compliment. She also knew that his gruff exterior concealed a decent, sensitive man, who cared deeply about his agents, even as he was sending them on missions from which some were unlikely to return.

    Those bushes may make a better hiding place, once the boat has been deflated. He jabbed the map with his index finger.

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    Point B was south-east of Point A and a short way inland. Hilly terrain, virtually no tree cover, main thing is to avoid being spotted and avoid injury. Should still be plenty of time to rest, eat and familiarise yourself with the area before you get to work. Note how it follows the coast, with a few detours further inland, cutting through any hills that come down to the sea.

    This is the only line along the coast and there are no roads to speak of, certainly none that would allow the easy movement of lorries and artillery pieces, let alone tanks. And the answer is yes, Miss Courtney, I would like you to blow that line. In fact, I am ordering you to do so.