While reading through some old poetry I wrote growing up, this piece stuck out to me. I wrote it as a senior in high school, inspired by the German invasion of the Netherlands, a particular, beautiful Dutch city by the name of Arnhem, and its subsequent liberation by Allied forces in September 1944. It won me first place in my high school’s first annual poetry competition.
Colorized 1930 photograph of one of Holland’s windmills, destroyed during liberation in September 1944.
I have always been allured by this region of Europe, with its peaceful grasslands and famous windmills; an innocent lowland which saw the detestable evils of senseless destruction, the disruption of a loving people, and the snare of deportation and genocide. Because of this attractive, silent scene and its history of unearthing and healing, I feel a deep conviction to visit Arnhem and take this all in; just as I felt the need to pull these words from my heart and out of my mind, and give a voice to the people who lived in Nazi Germany’s terrible shadow.
They awake from the night
filled with a dying Ambience, stirred
by the falcon who took flight
dropping bombs beneath
swastikas sheathed in steel
and conquering the night in fiery flare.
The night terror hath gone
Morning flame enlightens the sky, the city
Rolling on ruins,
gentle, like honey.
There is something beautiful about destruction.
The seclusions of the dark
expose like carrion
The shops stand and sway
softly like the warblers nesting,
singing, far away
from this curious and sleeping hell.
There is no green
the streets have gone
flooded by the walls and beds and dressers
of families kill’d, departed, and regimented
into Holland’s war
Fire the strings of a harp
Falling rain and father’s tears
bathe the sunlit ruin
in warm water
It does not stop falling.
Ashes slowly descend,
Like humble shreds of paper snow,
Fluttering to and fro in the tender breeze,
Covering piles of jagged concrete and unrooted trees,
And into streams running black like bubbling lead.
dissonance of collapsing rubble,
Bass’ly snares of artillery guns and machine weapons
clamouring far away,
and pounding our breasts so dreadfully near.
The splendor which gives light to our penance,
reaches high above the threshold of white thunder,
gleams upon every sullen surface in our ruined city,
shines in alabaster grace about the streets now flooded again.
A dying terrier caught in the treads of a panzer tank whimpers to the sound,
the sorrowful sweet harmony of singing voices.
Brothers, fathers, sisters, and mothers
Saints and Sinners raise hands in redeeming falling waters
arms and fingers and tattered flags
rising from the rubbles of hatred,
one final time, shout
The drums of liberation clap within and around
cracked and bleeding walls,
as French horns hum mournfully amidst the golden-bright storm.
Shadows pass the bricks and planks and ripped-out roads of Arnhem,
Blooming roses and crimson poppies shiver and
flinch from the late summer’s restless reign.
The sobbing does not stop,
the singing retorts in uncanny tones,
Thunder rumbles above the hissing skies,
the splashes sooth, and so strongly the godsend demands.