For Herman Heyen (d. 1941 over Russia)

Hermann, the Channel was blue-green
when you banked your plane and headed
back. But the Stuka’s wing,
down which you sighted the countries you hated,
shone brilliant as medals,

This is an interesting metaphor, suggesting the soldier’s hope or thirst for recognition—medals--and how that may have played a role in his choice to fight for Nazi Germany. Patriotism can be a powerful motivator. Kara Madden, age 23
Contradicting brilliant colors and beauty with fire and hatred sets the contrasting views of the author and his uncle in the rest of the poem. Rachel McGuinness, age 19

didn’t it? Your plane seemed
almost to be on fire, didn’t it?

Foreshadowing of fire, fire represents hatred, cleansing. Rachel McGuinness, age 19

 
My Nazi uncle, you received the letters
my father still talks and wonders bout—
the ones in which he told you to bail out
over England and plead insanity.

The pain of a family is felt intensly here! Rachel McGuinness, age 19

You got the letters, didn’t you?
But you kept saying you’d land in London
with the rest of your squadron,

 
in a few months, when the war was over,
of course. Of course. But they needed you
in Russia, didn’t they? And the few
who bailed out there were met by peasants
with pitchforks and scythes, weren’t they?

I like how the poem shows the potential thought process of the subject, and
how he may have justified his continued involvement in the war. It’s
an interesting perspective to write a poem from. Kara Madden, age 23

 
Anyway, your plane blew up, for a moment,
like a sun; your dust bailed out all over.

Wow! This line is striking, and such an image. Patricia Schlutt, age 15
This image really resounds with a terrible sort of beauty. Kyle Austin, age 21

 
Hermann, I don’t mean to make fun.
But this is only a wargame I’m playing,
anyway, isn’t it?—pretending you can listen,
or that you matter any more?

The way the poet keeps questioning his uncle with phrases like “didn’t you?” and “isn’t it?” really lends itself to the antagonistic tone of the poem, and connects well to the declaration in the last stanza. Kyle Austin, age 21

Later, past the days your ashes
sifted down through the gray Asian air,
the Allies leveled even Berlin, where,

 
under his alabaster ruins
your warlord’s charred bones
sang hosannas in their sleep.

Interesting: Hitler’s bones singing hosannas, perhaps asking for forgiveness or praying for the continuation of his plan. Rachel McGuinness, age 19

 
Hermann, what would you say now
if you could talk? How would you deny
my father’s letters? I keep
questioning him. He says: Ich habe ihm oft
geschrieben, aber. . . . He is almost sixty
now, and longs for you, and longs
for Wilhelm—buried in Holland, by the way—

I can feel the father’s immense pain from losing his brother and the author’s
frustration with members of his family. Rachel McGuinness, age 19

 
more than ever. Your living brother’s heart,

so to speak, has empty corridors.
He sleeps back to the day young Wilhelm fell,
and the day you burned,
for a moment, like a sun. He stares
for hours at photographs
of the two of you in uniform.

 
Hermann, my three brothers and I
are the most dispassionate of all Heyens ever.
Though named for Wilhelm, your poet-brother,

Continuation of the repetition of fire, also this poem represents the author’s anger
and frustration pent up for many years finally able to escape into verse.
Rachel McGuinness, age 19

I often curse the two of you and spend my hours
writing verses that wonder how your fiery,
German romanticism started,
and where, at last, if it did, it died.

The sound of this line is a chilling and rhythmic way to end the poem.
Patricia Schlutt, age 15
The commentary on the generation gap comes through strong in these last two stanzas, as the father’s strong ties to his heritage clashes with the poet’s own clear disdain for it. Kyle Austin, age 21
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.