This poem is inspired by horrific events. The poem that the Dutch historian, professor, writer and poet wrote in March 1943 was inspired by the arrest of his wife by the Germans. His wife would not live to see the and of the war. She died in the Sobibor death camp.
About this poem
It’s important to know, that the writer/poet did not have any knowledge he would never see his wife again. Deborah Appel, his wife, was transported from Durchgangslager Westerbork (Westerbork transit camp) to Vernichtungslager Sobibor (Sobibor extermination camp) because of a penalty. She died in this camp.
Moments when you realise that the one you love isn’t there anymore. The feeling of loss and contemplating about what could have happened. It’s thoughts like these that combine the thoughts about how the loved one looked like. Presser did and at the end of the poem, he asks himself if she would still be alive.
After the war was over, he learned that she died. He managed to stay hidden throughout parts of the war. The war formed a big impression for his later work.
Your lips, that I have kissed
Your lips, that I have kissed,
Your hair, dark and messy,
And then your heart, your young heart,
Which I delightfully rested on…
I think: it had to be like this.
Sometimes it is as if you’ve died.
Who knows, how far away, in sorrow and pain,
We would have wandered,
Before we are together again.
— J. Presser
Je lippen, die ik heb gekust
Je lippen, die ik heb gekust,
Je haren, donker en verward,
En dan je hart, je jonge hart,
Waaraan ‘k zo heerlijk heb gerust…
Ik denk: het heeft zo moeten zijn.
Soms is ‘t, of je bent gestorven.
Wie weet, hoe ver, in leed en pijn,
Wij zullen hebben rondgezworven,
Voordat wij weer tezamen zijn.
- — J. Presser