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In Flanders Fields

Updated on May 12, 2011

His Guardian Angel Speaking:


He waited for me.

One two three four five six seven...

eight comrades fell into the night

and eight long years and even longer

he waited for the light

to return in his life.

He asked himself if he might

as well count the stars

around the moon.

He expected me, he was calling me

and I came with my white wings wide

and the doctors said I just was a vision,

no more than a hallucination,

a wonderful daydream amidst

his terrible nightmares.

But what the hell

do they know? His Word

is my Flesh & Blood and I am

what I am: his One & Only

Shell Shocked Isabel Shrapnel.

Folk song composed in the trenches by Belgian soldiers:

The Kaiser is sick,

He's got a colic

And there's gas

Coming out of his High Ass


What has he got?

Trouble, a lot

And all too little


The Kaiser is sick,

‘Cause his rheumathick

Gives him great pain

And an ugly stain

On his right arm

Where I've counted nine

Abscesses so fine,

So his doctors are yelling:


After being hit

By a piece of shit

Blowin' in the gas

Coming out of your High Ass


I wish you, dear Kaiser,

To drown in the Yser

And all too little


The Waiting is the Worst

The Pickelhaubes had set Leuven , Aarschot, Dinant and many other cities in fire and the Tommies were making great propaganda of it. Pictures of dead and mutilated little angels traveled around the world, songs were sung about the Tragic History of Jeannette Elisabeth Shrapnell, and countless fresh young men were already marching to the battlefields of Flanders.

Who refused to go, was a coward. So, fourteen year old boys changed their date of birth.

'How old are you?' the sergeant asked.'Sixteen,' they said.

'Go out, come back inside and tell me that you are nineteen years old,' the sergeant said.

And those boys of fourteen went outside and came back as boys of nineteen.

'Go along with the others,' an officer said to a boy of nineteen who was in fact nearly fourteen. ‘Look straight before you. Do not look backwards. Walk normally. Once you are out of the trench, the worst is behind you. The waiting, my son... The waiting is the worst.'

And this boy of fourteen kept pace with the others. He looked straight before him. He did not look backwards.

And then the waiting was over and he knew the officer lied to him. Because the waiting was not the worst.

1936 / In Flanders' Fields - In Vlaamse Velden

An article in the newspaper about the secret victims of the Great War, tucked away in the Franz Jozef Hospital in Vienna. What they have in Vienna, they have perhaps also in Brussels, I thought. And again I went looking for my Favorite Ghostwriter, my Unknown Soldier. For three years I have searched and finally, with the help of my stepfather doctor Scherpeneel, I have found this hospital with its secret wing, called "The Hellfire Corner". It is a prohibited area for the unauthorized, but I'm authorized: my stepfather is a doctor.

It's here I've found these... one two three four five six seven eight... living dead. The world believes they are fallen on the field of honour, but they still breathe. Because of their horrific mutilations, they may not come into the light. Paralyzed, missing limbs, blind, deaf and dumb they have to stay in this darkness forever.

'Their impact on the morale of the people would be... disastrous,' a doctor said. 'It would be bad propaganda, don't you think so, mademoiselle? The light would hurt the eyes... of those who still have eyes... Do you see, mademoiselle?'

Oh yes, I did see. I did see them eating and drinking and I did hear them breathing in this No Man's Land between the realm of the living and the empire of Death. Some of them were mumbling a name - of a a mother, a wife, a daughter, an angel.

His bed was a laundry basket, it made breathing a lot easier.

He was singing. Very quiet, you could barely hear him. But I heard him singing, definitely.

He was singing this song for me... In Vlaamse Velden, In Flanders' Fields...

In Flanders' Fields / In Vlaamse Velden (as a part of the musical The Angel of Mons/De Engel van Mons)

In Flanders Fields poem by John McCrae; music and vocal by Anthony Hutchcroft.

In Flanders' Fields the poppies blow (Remembrance Day / Lest we forget)

1936 - Shell Shocked Isabel Shrapnel Speaking:

I knew for sure I would recognize him, even if he he was only half a man without a face, sleeping in a laundry basket. I knew it, because I never would be complete without him. He was the half I missed, as I was the half he missed.

'Nobody knows his name or what he thinks,' a doctor said. ‘He has not spoken a single word since he came here. That's why we call him Sansparole.'

'He is my Unknown Soldier,' I said. ‘He doesn't say a word, because he has no words anymore to describe the horror. But in my head and in my heart he still speaks without words.'

‘I don't understand,' the doctor said. ‘How do you know it's him?'

Could I answer him that I knew because this crazy guy called Sansparole was my inner voice, my Favorite Ghostwriter?

Could I answer the doctor that I knew it was his patient and his patient only, because I knew this Unknown Soldier by heart?

Could I answer him that I knew it because I was Shell Shocked Isabel Shrapnel, the only person in the whole wide world who could hear Sansparole speaking?

No I could not.

He would not understand how my invisible friend still was singing his songs for me and writing his poems with my hands in this little scrapbook of mine.

He would not understand, even if I showed him all these cruel little fairy tales that were in it.

I went to see my invisible friend and he showed me his watercolour paintings. Every piece was signed ‘Sansparole' - ‘Without Words'.

And for the first time in all those years, he spoke:

WaterColor Tommy

Monologue of Your Favorite Ghostwriter:

If there were no words anymore,

I painted the stars

that were falling into the night:

one two three four five six seven eight

and more than eighteen years

I was standing in my trench,

waiting for you

amidst terrible daydreams

and horrible nightmares.

I whispered your name and I prayed

you would hear me in your head

and know me by heart

and now you're here,

be welcome,

ma belle Sharpenelle,

and forgive me

for I am the greatest sinner of us all.


Yes, I was the one

who was singing the song about the prince,

murdered in a distant land,

I was the one

singing about the Great War that would come

to take your parents away

and your sisters and your brothers,

I was the one

who has left you all alone and on your own

in a black and empty world at war,

forgive me.

And the youngest boy of nineteen

was just twelve,

he died at the Somme

and I've painted one two three four five six seven...

eight comrades falling into the night

like shooting stars,

and now I'm alone too

and shell shocked to the bone,

not even happy

'cause I'm still breathing.

They call me Sansparole,

Lord of the HellFire Corner,

and it's here I've created you,

ma belle Sharpenelle,

it's here in my laundry basket

I've made you all up,

so forgive me

and be welcome

in this increasingly black hole

of my watercolor paintings

where I'm waiting without words,

without colors to describe

the blackest black.

Someone whispers in the dark

Hell must be a fiery red,

but that isn't true:

I've painted Hell

like I've seen Hell

and there are no colors

to depict Hell

as there are no words

to describe Horror -

even the blackest black

would not be black enough

to paint the black hole

in which I will fall

without you.

So let's dance, ma belle

Shell Shocked Isabel Shrapnel,

and forgive me:

WaterColor Paintings

My Last WaterColor Painting

Even the blackest black

is not black enough to paint the black

hole in which I will fall

without you.

Do you see? Of course

you don't. It's pitch dark

and there is nothing

to see, except

you and me and this hole

of the blackest black.

Nothing except half a man

who has found his other half,

so now they can jump

hand in hand in this black hole

and fall forever and ever

together forever.

There is nothing else

except this blackest black

and isn't this a soothing,

a reassuring, a really

hopeful view,

Ma Belle Sharpenelle?

Sansparole / Without Words

September 1, 1939

The first words Sansparole spoke since the Great War had come, were also his last words.

I didn't understand it, then. There was nothing to see on the latest watercolor painting he had made, except a black brick wall. How could this blackest black be soothing and reassuring? How could this be a vision of hope?

I studied the watercolor paintings. I didn't understand his last words, until... now.

The news was on the radio: ‘Since 4.45 a.m. this morning Germany is at war with Poland.'

In Flanders' Fields...


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