To those I’ve wronged, I bow my head I’ll cover your graves with flowers and life I know you wanted me dead instead My sins cut like a sharpened knife
I can’t forget the lives I stained For they are gone and I grieve their loss Fire turns treacherous if not trained And thus I hang on Jerusalem’s cross
The faces of the men I send to their death Haunt my nightmares once I close my eyes The burning red flames of my last breath An answer to their endless cries
And with that breath I free my soul It flees my skin and in the sky it’ll dance Enjoying life before the end of it all Perhaps to be given a second chance
Sir Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and later from 1951 up till 1955. At this time he was a member of the Conservative Party.
He considered Gallipoli the greatest tragedy of his political career (which is what the poem describes). As Britain’s lord of admiralty (secretary of the navy), he made the fateful decision to attack Turkey on its Dardanelles coast, specifically at Gallipoli during the early days of the First World War. The failed campaign led to the humiliation of the British. Churchill was dismissed from his cabinet position, excluded from the War Council, and allowed no hand in the further conduct and administration of the war.
Don’t ever forget that you are loved By those right here and those above For what you’ve said and done By loving wife and son
And don’t you dare to brush it off When someone says you’ve done enough For your hard work is seen by all And we’ll be there, when you stand or fall
You fought in wars we can’t comprehend And I realise not all can be mend But I will do my best for you Because this is what my generation should do
You see, there are so many who care And trust in them, for they’ll be there All you need to do is ask And although that sounds like an impossible task
We do remember all those wars And I realise my freedom is yours So let that never be in vain All your love and pain
This poem is for Jose Morales, born in 1923. He is still very much alive and getting on for 97. He served in the 5th armoured division in Europe and then continued on fighting in Korea. He loved to be outside working, he was a true handyman. He worked as a plumber and loved his wife Josefina Morales (1922-2017) and his three sons Joe Morales, Carlos Morales and Ramiro Morales (1949-2017).
I want to thank his grandson for approaching me, Corban Adkins. He is in two of the photographs.
Helmut Schwarz and Fritz Birken had been childhood friends ever since they could remember. They had done everything together, walk to school from neighbourhoods deemed unsafe to helping the other get a job, making up amazing facts that until the moment they made them up, the other didn’t poses.
They shared food when the other didn’t have enough money for a nice sandwich, or blankets when the other was freezing, they laughed together when the other made a stupid joke and they got detention together for the stupid things the other had done.
They did everything together, so, naturally, they were going to fight together too. And that they did.
Here they stood, after years of service and months of being hunted down. They were worn-out, you could say, they looked older than they actually were, a layer of mud and sweat covering their face, their eyes defeated and pained.
They held their hands up in defeat, showing the enemy they were not ready to die. Because they weren’t sure what came after death and if they’d be separated. After so many nightmares they had lived together, they couldn’t lose the other. Not now.
They saw the enemy closing in on them and just as they had always done, they pretended to be strong. In reality, they were scared, wasn’t it for the small amount of dignity they still had left, they would’ve crumbled to pieces right then and there.
Once every few seconds they shared a glance, but it was different from the look they had shared minutes before. There was no panic, no adrenaline, just sadness and fear. A hint of relief maybe, none would ever tell a soul they were somewhat happy. The war was over.
And if they had to surrender, they’d do that together too.
Although they didn’t share any words, they knew exactly what the other was thinking, and it hurt. They had no idea what was going to happen, as English words were thrown at them like insults. And with the last minutes they shared together, they said goodbye and thank you.
Thank you for all those years of kindness and joy, all those times of bringing me back safe when I was drunk, all those times of running away with me when I did something stupid, thank you for all the years of you being my friend. And last, thank you for being there. Thank you for being there on the frontline, for protecting me whenever you could. Thank you for coming with me, for being my rock. Thank you for being my friend. My best friend.
Helmut Schwarz was forcefully pushed around by what some called heroes and liberators, others enemies, parted from his best friend. Fritz Birken, gentle as he was, tried his best not to lose his friend out of his sight, but was soon swallowed by the Americans.
Without being told why, they pushed our German soldier, Helmut, in front of the Chaplin, who didn’t seem very stressed or fazed. Being parted from the rest of his group set our Wehrmacht soldier on edge, yet there was nothing he could do. One wrong move and he feared he was gone.
The Chaplin stepped out of the car, calmly, and with what was to be read as compassion, walked up to a man who had killed other people. One of the biggest sins. None the less, here he was, being torn between faith and friendship, watching how the one person he had still left, was being pushed inside a car.
Hopefully he wouldn’t get sick, he always got sick in those army vehicles, especially with this weather. If he’d collapse they might leave him for dead. He had heard stories of Americans leaving wounded Germans behind, so he wondered, would they really?
Lost in thoughts he suddenly felt a cold finger on his forehead, water dripping down his skin. He twitched slightly, wanting to step back. He urged himself not to, watching how the Chaplin blessed a man some saw as nothing more than scum, the devil’s soldiers.
Why? One word, so many answers. Why did the American care? They were both believers, though in two different things. Or he believed, once, a long time ago. And as he was met with the soft smile of a man who had just given him God’s blessing, he allowed himself to look around.
There were so many American’s they would’ve never stood a chance. They didn’t try. Other soldiers might have done so, though none of them wanted to die, so they made sure the chance of them doing so in the last months of the war was as slim as possible.
He stepped inside the car, next to the Chaplin, who started his engine. Behind him was a jeep filled to the brim with armed American soldiers, were he to try something stupid.
Maybe it was because he accompanied the Chaplin and had a lost debt to God he had to be paid, or maybe pure luck, but they were driving right behind the truck they had pushed his best friend in, Fritz. He recognized him immediately. Force of habit perhaps, always having to know where his clumsy friend was.
They pulled up, a silence none of them seemed to mind hanging in the air. It wasn’t an awkward silence, or a silence for they didn’t know how to communicate with the other. But somehow, he needed feel the need to start a conversation. He was driving with a Chaplin, what could go wrong?
For once, there was peace. Something they thought they were bringing, but now found out they had been taking all along. It was this sudden weight being lifted from your shoulders, as he finally enjoyed the sunshine again, the soft laughing of men and the wind against his face.
If this is how they were to lose the war, he didn’t fully mind. For the first time in months he felt like he was free, not while protecting what he thought was worth protecting, or walking through villages they had taken, no, he felt free the second he thought his freedom would be taken from him.
Maybe the Americans were liberators after all?
On photograph: (left) Nick Geerling (Fritz Birken) and Bryan Pisters (Helmut Schwarz). Taken by Jan-Thijs Koppen
When Heaven Touches Hell is my own book, which is filled with poems capturing different sides of war. So have we the medical side, talking about the field medics and nurses, or the side of the soldier himself, the dying and dead, or those who keep on fighting, the home front and front lines, all portrayed through poetry. With every poem comes a fitting re-enactment picture and explanation to the photograph below it. At the end of the book is an About Me which you can find above.
You can buy the book through my website in about 2,5 to 3 weeks. I’ll be sure to keep you posted and talk about the newest changes when it comes to the publishing of the book.
Some poems can be found on this website or on my instagram, which you can find on this page too.
After participating in Kunstbende, I was asked to to part in AMZAF. This was of course an amazing opportunity, and thus I said yes. Even though it was quite a ride in the car, for we live in the south, I went none the less, which was a very good idea
A few days beforehand I had bought my original ANC Class A jacket, which means an officers jacket. Because this event was very near in the future, it seemed to me as a good idea to come in the entire uniform, this time more dapper then before. After having said so, I received the Pink Officers Skirt, to complete the uniform, together with the Garrison Cap in the same colour.
I had prepared a handful of poems, because I had been given three times five minutes separately. Two people didn’t make it, meaning there was another five minutes added to my collection. At the end I read four different times, each five minutes. I had brought seven poems with me, which turned out helpful for I could switch in between poems.
It was raining, which meant there were fewer people than expected. Because “Word Art” was placed in the horses’ stables, some of the ladies, the artists that is, and myself took it upon us to gather people outside who’d be willing to join us. This, luckily, succeeded, causing a very nice ambiance.
I stood there with a lot of love and respect, after I had secretly changed my clothing to my uniform, the dubbed Class A, I was given a headset, which needed some getting used to, papers in my hand, together with other writers like me. It was an amazing evening, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
The smell of death You’ll never know Caused by the fallen Down below
She takes you In her suffocating hug While she silently swallows The holes you have dug
The men that have died Now reduced to mud As she takes the rest Of the life you may got
She won’t have mercy She’ll whisper her song To the wounded and dying That here just don’t belong
The land of the living The sky of the dead For you’ll never remember When Death and you met
This poem was inspired by a friend of mine, Nick Geerling, who has a Second World War German trench in his backyard. I stayed there last Thursday, together with my brother and himself. It was an amazing experience and above all he documented the whole day for his youtube channel, link below.