Skip to content

Cheer Friend of Both: An abnominal for Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Today is the anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s execution in 1945 and the day that he is commemorated in the Northumbria Community‘s calendar of saints, so I’ve decided to break with my normal practice of not posting new poems on this blog and put up a piece in memory of him:


Cheer Friend of Both
An abnominal for Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thorn in the Reich, be the torch
for the terrified bride

of the torn Herrn. Interned,
confined, be free in the other

hidden Reich, the one eterne.
If the dirt of the Hof be

bitter herb, bete doch
For thine be —.”

Ich hoffe not trite: no richer effort
to render the terror inert. Brief

the trot to Tod. Therefore, brother,
be fortified, cheered, enriched.

Deride the thin, horrid, inferior credo
ordered. Be interior hobo, freed

to intent. Tend the bidden boon.
If it be no Hilfe, do not ochone;

ochone for the Eiche, the Erde,
the bent Hirte. No introit intoned, be

the Brot bitten: be rid of, interred.
Thorn in the Reich, be reborn.


This is an example of an abnominal, a form that I have been developing for the past week. The core of the form is that you  use only the letters of the dedicatee’s name to create the words in the poem, but there are other rules, which are explained here. It differs from other pieces I have written in the form so far in that it is entirely serious and strives to avoid the slightly anarchic wit into which the abnominal can happily lead the writer.


Reich — Aside from the obvious reference to the Third Reich, this is the normal German word for kingdom. “Kingdom God” in German is “Reich Gottes”.
Herrn — genitive form of Herr; that is, in this case, “Lord”.
Hof — courtyard, yard
bete doch — be sure to pray
Ich hoffe — I hope
Tod — death
Hilfe — help
Eiche — oak (a symbol of Germany)
Erde — earth
Hirte — shepherd
Brot — bread

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: