Twelve Years – Paul Celan

The line
that remained, that
became true: . . . your
house in Paris — become
the alterpiece of your hands.

Breathed through thrice,
shone through thrice.

It’s turning dumb, turning deaf
behind our eyes.
I see the poison flower
in all manner of words and shapes.

Go. Come.
Love blots out its name: to
you it ascribes itself.

The Poles – Paul Celan

The Poles
are within us,
while Awake,
we sleep across, to the Gate
of Mercy,

I lose you to you, that
is my Snow-Comfort,

say, that Jerusalem is,

say, as if I were this
your Whiteness,
as if you were

as if without us we could be we,

I open your leaves, forever,

you bless, you bed
us free.

Poem – Ice Eden

There is a Land that’s Lost,

Moon waxes in its Reeds,

and all that’s turned to frost

with us, burns there and sees.

It sees, for it has Eyes,

Earths they are, and bright.

Night, Night, Alkalis.

It sees, this Child of Sight.

It sees, it sees, we see,

I see you, you too see.

Ice will rise again before

This Hour shall cease to be. 

Poem – Your Hand – Paul Celan

Your hand full of hours, you came to me – and I said: 

‘Your hair is not brown.’ 

You lifted it, lightly, 

on to the balance of grief, 

it was heavier than I. 
They come to you on their ships, and make it their load,

then put it on sale in the markets of lust. 

You smile at me from the deep. 

I weep at you from the scale that’s still light. 

I weep: Your hair is not brown. 

They offer salt-waves of the sea, 

and you give them spume. 

You whisper: ‘They’re filling the world with me now, 

and for you I’m still a hollow way in the heart! 

You say: ‘Lay the leaf-work of years by you, it’s time, 

that you came here and kissed me. 

The leaf-work of years is brown, your hair is not brown.

Poem – Flower – Paul Celan

The stone. The stone in the air, which I followed. 

Your eye, as blind as the stone. 
We were 


we baled the darkness empty, we found 

the word that ascended summer: 

Flower – a blind man’s word. 

Your eye and mine: 

they see 

to water. 

Heart wall upon heart wall 

adds petals to it. 
One more word like this word, and the hammers 

will swing over open ground.

Poem – When You Lie – Paul Celan

When you lie 

in the Bed of lost Flag-Cloth, 

with blue-black Syllables, in Snow-Eyelash-Shadow, 

the Crane through Thought- 


comes gliding, steely- 

you open for him. 
His beak ticks the Hour for you 

at every Mouth – at every 

bell-stroke, with red-hot Rope, a Silent- 


Un-Pulse and Pulse 

mint each other to death, 

the Dollars, the Cents, 

rain hard through your Pores, 



you fly there and bar 

the Doors Yesterday and Tomorrow – phosphorescent, 


buds the one, and buds the 

other breast, 

towards the Grasping, under 

the Thrusts –: so thick, 

so deeply 


the starry 



Poem – Homecoming – Paul Celan

Snowfall, denser and denser, 

dove-coloured as yesterday, 

snowfall, as if even now you were sleeping. 
White, stacked into distance. 

Above it, endless, 

the sleigh track of the lost. 
Below, hidden, 

presses up 

what so hurts the eyes, 

hill upon hill, 

On each, 

fetched home into its today, 

an I slipped away into dumbness: 

wooden, a post. 
There: a feeling, 

blown across by the ice wind 

attaching its dove- its snow- 

coloured cloth as a flag.

Poem – Night Ray – Paul Celan

Most brightly of all burned the hair of my evening loved one: 

to her I send the coffin of lightest wood. 

Waves billow round it as round the bed of our dream in Rome; 

it wears a white wig as I do and speaks hoarsely: 

it talks as I do when I grant admittance to hearts. 

It knows a French song about love, I sang it in autumn 

when I stopped as a tourist in Lateland and wrote my letters 

to morning. 
A fine boat is that coffin carved in the coppice of feelings. 

I too drift in it downbloodstream, younger still than your eye. 

Now you are young as a bird dropped dead in March snow, 

now it comes to you, sings you its love song from France. 

You are light: you will sleep through my spring till it’s over. 

I am lighter: 

in front of strangers I sing.

Poem – Corona – Paul Celan

Autunm eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends. 

From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk: 

then time returns to the shell. 
In the mirror it’s Sunday, 

in dream there is room for sleeping, 

our mouths speak the truth. 
My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one: 

we look at each other, 

we exchange dark words, 

we love each other like poppy and recollection, 

we sleep like wine in the conches, 

like the sea in the moon’s blood ray. 
We stand by the window embracing, and people look up from 

the street: 

it is time they knew! 

It is time the stone made an effort to flower, 

time unrest had a beating heart. 

It is time it were time. 

It is time. 

Poem – Death Fugue – Paul Celan

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at sundown 

we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night 

we drink it and drink it 

we dig a grave in the breezes there one lies unconfined 

A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents 

he writes 

he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden 

hair Margarete 

he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are 

flashing he whistles his pack out 

he whistles his Jews out in earth has them dig for a 


he commands us strike up for the dance 

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night 

we drink you in the morning at noon we drink you at 


we drink and we drink you 

A man lives in the house he plays with the serpents 

he writes 

he writes when dusk falls to Germany your golden hair 


your ashen hair Sulamith we dig a grave in the breezes 

there one lies unconfined 

He calls out jab deeper into the earth you lot you 

others sing now and play 

he grabs at the iron in his belt he waves it his 

eyes are blue 

jab deper you lot with your spades you others play 

on for the dance 

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night 

we drink you at at noon in the morning we drink you 

at sundown 

we drink and we drink you 

a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete 

your ashen hair Sulamith he plays with the serpents 

He calls out more sweetly play death death is a master 

from Germany 

he calls out more darkly now stroke your strings then 

as smoke you will rise into air 

then a grave you will have in the clouds there one 

lies unconfined 

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night 

we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany 

we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink 

and we drink you 

death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue 

he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true 

a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete 

he sets his pack on to us he grants us a grave in 

the air 

He plays with the serpents and daydreams death is 

a master from Germany 

your golden hair Margarete 

your ashen hair Shulamith