You were being driven down to Prague
when a fellow in blue dungarees started shooting
so you stood up beside the chauffeur
and fired back.
Himmler, Kaltenbrunner, Eichmann, Müller –
they were oafs compared with you,
unimaginative meat to your carving ambition,
bureaucrats in love with the paraphernalia.
Your bourgeois education, your career
in Naval Intelligence, your faultless handling
of the foil and the violin, your cold mind
running ahead of your stammering tongue!
Even the Führer was jealous, almost apprehensive:
no wonder Berlin was relieved
when after a week under the surgeons
you abruptly died.
Connoisseur of screams,
you were the most stylish technician of them all
excelling in everything you did
down to the last frayed shriek.
SS Obergruppenführer, we confirm
that you were Twentieth Century Man like us,
contemptuous of bumblers, sexually ravenous,
handsome, clear-headed, ruthless.
You shot back at the fellow
until the bomb rolled under the Mercedes
and blew you up – and it was one of us
who fell in your superb black uniform!
Czechoslovakia groaned with anticipation
as the doctors dug out your shattered spleen
and hacked at shrapnel
through flesh impregnated with metal and cloth.
300,000 new ghosts watched you out of dead eyes;
millions who would end in the ovens
looked over their shoulders: you were brave;
we salute your death. Lidice mourns you.