“The Shoe Leather Express” – Stalag Luft IV – Poems

(Posted: January 17, 2012)

One of the talents that stands out to me, not only in my Father’s notebooks, but in many of the books that I’ve read, such as Joe O’Donnell’s books, is poetry writing.  I never knew my Dad to write a poem during the years of growing up with my family nor after I left home.  It surprised me to see that poetry was one of Dad’s hidden talents. 

Following are poems, with authors unknown, that are listed on page 102 of “The Shoe Leather Express.”  “Over Nite Pass” was read in 2006 during the ceremony commemorating the POWs interned in Stalag Luft IV.  The prisoners could only dream of an “over nite pass.”  It was perhaps a diversion to write of memories or dreams taking the prisoners outside of the barbed wire for a brief time.


I knocked on the door of Angels

In the faint and starry light,

“Mam” a P.O.W. would like to have

A furlough overnight.

“But you had a pass last evening”

The lovely Captain said,

“And the night before, and the night before,

Don’t you like your wooden bed?”

“It isn’t the quarters, Captain”

And I saw the stars in her eyes

Blink and gently soften,

“You’re homesick, lad,” she sighed.

She took a fluff of cloud bank

And scribbled heavily

“Here is your pass, now travel fast,

And be back for reveille.”

So I boarded the train of slumber

And homeward I’d be gone

But I’d be back by the same track

When the bugler broke the dawn.



Black barbs of war that fetter me, and scowling towers

Only the least of me is hostage—mere limbs and voice

Which were imprisoned in one pattern or another anyway.

I was a veteran prisoner before you; these feet know well

The slavery of pattern—roads close followed;

The voice is trained to answer low in meekness

The overseeing tones of tyrant custom.

I am used to the black bread of dogma

And the tasteless water of convention, so you see

Black barbs and scowling towers, you do not chain me

No more than I am used to being chained.

I have learned well the articles of servitude

To which a man must submit his flesh,

Learned them so well indeed that they are role

And no longer interfere with that of me which is beyond the chain,

Forever reaching—forever free.


2 responses to ““The Shoe Leather Express” – Stalag Luft IV – Poems”

  1. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  2. Kathy Lund says:

    My Dad Cyril Cummings was POW I believe with Joe O’Donnell as I have a copy of Shoe Leather Express with his signature on it. Feel free to contact me if you would like to talk. Maybe we can give each other information that we don’t have. Have a great day.
    Thank You,

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