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I Hear The Music Now



Bonhoeffer as a young student of seventeen


His Berlin study

His arrest at Berlin

On Holocaust Memorial Day, I offer a poem as a tribute to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His family believed this gifted and 'lovable' man was destined to be a musician. But the Cosmos had other plans.

On April 9th, 1945, he was executed at Flossenburg Concentration Camp in Bavaria for his stance against the abomination of Hitler's Jewish policies. Bonhoeffer's tremendous energy in the cause of justice and peace knew no bounds, even after his arrest. He inspired and gathered about him so many of like mind prepared to do the distance.

Exactly two weeks later, on April 23rd, liberation came, at Flossenburg via the 90th US Infantry. The Third Reich fell as surely as the walls of Jericho.

On that spring dawn, a tidal power was released into the universe that has carried subsequent generations. And those born into a traumatised world within an ace of his passing were touched by his shadow and have best ridden the current of that Life he set free.


'There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveller.'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I am breaking in two
Hell opens its mouth wide
bidding Heaven fill it

Am I a whited sepulchre?
pacific as Christ
before my warden
when a heart of anger
rages under the ribs
at living blasphemy?

Pictures from the past
assail the mind
taunting and tantalising
a Beethoven sonata at dusk
my fingers dabbling harmonies
from liquid keys

praeternatural chords
that could transform
a disordered world

Vintage values, vintage leather
a timeworn oaken table
rye bread, snitzel, sauerkraut
blessed conversation
the family as one dipping
its hand into the dish

my sister's merriment
her sparkling wit, she with whom
I shared a sacred womb

Tubingen, the Neckar's sheen
willow-teased and placid
ancient gables pinked against sky
the halls of learning
prescriptive ink, mottled parchment
a smell of dust and destiny

Embattled senses piqued
drunk on heroic visions
Wagner, Schiller, Goethe
donning the mental shoes
of Luther, Hegel, Kepler
confabulating new fire

The zeal of youth!
The rampant certainty
Good systems of belief
might slay hubris and heresy
Christians foiled, resisted, banned
the torque tightening

But no cheap Grace,
Grace the other side of pain
and prayer, Grace prodigal
and purposeful, power-releasing
stone-breaking Grace
of Heaven's radiant geode!

Orgies of cleansing
God's Chosen hounded, trampled
the burning and the broken glass
the Prince of Darkness
determined to exterminate
his own reflection

The hiding, oh, the hiding
the labyrinthine whispers
earthquaking jackboots
persecution by a buckled cross
the leading where I had no wish to go
like the Lord's disciple

I ask the warden how
his diphtherious daughter does
footsteps clatter in concrete corridors
echoing against the mindless walls
It is Time, O Lord. I am Thine,
You bid me come and die

O perfect irony! O Spring!
A round, rose-tinted dawn!
Birds fly upward like broadcast seed
I see the outlined noose, the narrow way
the gallows way, a doorway framing light
This, this is where it begins...

I hear the music now...



Flossenburg Concentration Camp - courtesy of the Holocaust History Archive


Flossenburg Castle