Your Hand

Your Hand full of Hours, you came to me – and I said:

‘Your Hair is not brown.’

So you lifted it, lightly, onto the Balance of Grief, it was

Heavier than I…

They come to you on Ships, make it their load, then place it

on sale in the Markets of Lust –

You smile at me from the Depths, 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 beside you, it’s Time that you

came here and kissed me!

The Leaf-Work of Years is brown: your Hair is not brown.


From my Hand the Autumn eats its Leaf: we are Friends.

We shell Time from Nuts and teach it to walk:

Time returns to the Shell.

In the mirror it’s Sunday,

in Dream there is sleep,

the Mouth speaks true.

My eye bends down to the Sex of my Loved One:

we gaze at each other,

we speak a Darkness between us,

we love each other as Poppy and Memory,

we sleep like Wine in the Mussel,

like the Sea in the Blood-Beam of Moons.

We stand entwined at the Window, they look up at us from the


it is Time, that they knew!

It is Time, that the Stone condescended to flower,

that Unrest’s Heart beat.

It is Time that it became, Time.

It is Time.


Black Milk of Daybreak we drink it at evening

we drink it at noon and morning we drink it at night

we drink and we drink

we dig at a Grave in the Air there one lies unconfined

A Man lives in the House he plays with the Serpents he


he writes while it falls dark over Germany your golden

Hair Margerete

he writes and steps from the House and they’re shining the Stars he

whistles his Jews up to dig at a Grave in the Earth

he commands us to strike up the Dance.

Black Milk of Daybreak we drink you at night

we drink you at morning and noon we drink you at evening

we drink and we drink

A Man lives in the House he plays with the Serpents he


he writes while it falls dark over Germany your golden

Hair Margerete

Your ashen Hair Shulamith we dig at a Grave in the

Air there one lies unconfined

He cries dig the soil deeper you there you others sing out and


he grabs the Steel at his Belt he waves it his Eyes are


dig your Spades deeper you there you others play on for

the Dance

Black Milk of Daybreak we drink you at night

we drink you at noon and morning we drink you at evening

we drink and we drink

a Man lives in the House your golden hair Margarete

your ashen Hair Shulamith he plays with the Serpents

He cries play Death more sweetly Death is a Master from


He cries stroke the Strings more darkly you’ll rise like Smoke in

the Air

then a Grave you’ll 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


we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink

Death is a Master from Germany his Eye is blue

he strikes you with leaden Bullets he strikes you true

a Man lives in the House your golden Hair Margarete

he sets his Dogs onto us and he grants us a Grave in the Air

he plays with the Serpents and dreams Death is a Master

from Germany

your golden Hair Margarete

your ashen Hair Shulamith

Count The Almonds

Count the Almonds,

count, what was bitter, watched for you,

count me in:

I sought your Eye, as it opened and no one announced


I spun that hidden Thread,

on which the Dew, of your thought,

slid down to the Pitchers,

that a Speech, which no one’s Heart found, guarded.

Only there did you enter wholly the Name, that is yours,

stepping sure-footedly into yourself,

the Hammers swung free in the Bell-Cradle of Silences,


the Listened-For reached you,

the Dead put its arm round you too,

and the three of you walked through the Evening.

Make me bitter.

Count me among the Almonds.

In Front of a Candle

Of chased Gold, as

you told me to, Mother,

I shaped the Candlestick, out of which

she darkens for me in the midst of

fracturing hours,


Being-Dead’s Daughter.

Slender in Form,

a thin, almond-eyed Shadow,

Mouth and her Sex

danced round by Slumber-Beasts,

she drifts from the gaping Gold

she rises up,

to the Summit of Now.

With night-shrouded


I speak the Blessing:

In the Name of the Three

who fight with each other, until

Heaven dips down into the Grave of Feeling,

in the Name of the Three, whose rings

gleam on my Finger, whenever

I loose the Hair of the Trees in the Abyss,

so that richer Floods rush down through the Deep –

in the Name of the first of the Three

who shrieked,

when called on to live, where his Word went before him,

in the name of the Second, who watched it and wept,

in the name of the Third, who piles white

stones in the middle –

I pronounce you free

of the Amen that overpowers us,

of the ice-filled Light at its rim,

there, where tower-high it enters the Sea,

there, where the grey one, the Dove

picks at the Names

this side and that side of Dying:

You stay, you stay, you stay,

a Dead Woman’s child,

sealed to the No of my yearning,

wedded to a Cleft in Time

to which the Mother-Word led me,

so that a single Spasm

would pass through the Hand

that now, and now, grasps at my Heart!

NoteAlmond-eyed: Celan uses the synonym of bitter almonds for the Jews and referring to the custom of eating a bitter food at the Passover - Pesach - table, elsewhere says ‘Make me bitter, count me among the almonds.’ The Three: The triple goddess, personified perhaps as the three Graeae, who had only one eye between them, to see with, which they passed from hand to hand and struggled over, and also perhaps the Three Norns. In the myth, at the hero’s birth he is blessed by two of the Norns, but the third prophesies that he will die on the day that the candle beside him gutters. The oldest of the three seizes it, and warns the mother never to light it again until her son’s last day has come. Here the three are, equally, father, mother and son. And there are also the echoes of Ulysses and Aeneas conversing with the dead in the Underworld.

There Was Earth

There was Earth in them, and

they dug.

They dug and they dug, and so

their Day went by, and their Night. And they did not praise God,

who, so they heard, wanted all this,

who, so they heard, knew of all this.

They dug and they heard nothing more;

did not grow wise, invented no Song,

thought up for themselves no Language.

They dug.

There came a Silence, there came a Storm,

There came every Ocean.

I dig, you dig, and it digs, the Worm,

and the Singing, there, says: They dig.

O someone, o none, o no one, o you:

Where did it lead to, that nowhere-leading?

O you dig and I dig, and I dig towards you,

and on our finger awakens the Ring.

With Every Thought

With every Thought I went

out of the World: there you were,

you my Gentle One, you my Open One, and –

you received us.


says that for us everything died,

that for us there the Eye broke?

Everything woke, all things began.

Vast, a Sun came swimming by, bright

a Soul and a Soul engaged, clear,

masterfully made a silence for it

a path ahead.


you opened your Lap, quiet

rose a Breath in the Aether,

and what became cloud, was it not,

was it not Form, and for us then,

was it not

as good as a Name?

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.


No-man kneads us again out of Earth and Loam,

no-man spirits our Dust.


Praise to you, No-man.

For love of you

we will flower.


towards you.

A Nothing

we were, we are, we shall

be still, flowering:

the Nothing-, the



our Pistil soul-bright,

our Stamen heaven-torn,

our Corolla red

with the Violet-Word that we sang

over, O over

the thorn.

Note: The pistil is the female part of the flower consisting of ovary, style and stigma. The stamen is the male part containing pollen. The corolla is the whorl of leaves forming the inner envelope of the flower.


Silence, like Gold cooked in



Vast, grey,

near as all that is Lost


All the Names, all the with-

Burnt up

Names. So much

Ash to be blessed. So much

Land gained


the light, so light



Vast. Grey. Clinker-


You, then.

You with the pale

bitten-out bud,

You in the Wine-Flood.

(Did it not discharge

us too, this Hour?


Good, that your Word died away here.)

Silence, like Gold cooked, in

charred, charred


Fingers, smoke-thin. Like Crowns, Air-Crowns

around – –

Vast. Grey. Track-





In the Almond – what dwells in the Almond?


Nothing dwells in the Almond.

There it dwells and dwells.

In Nothing – what dwells there? The King.

There dwells the King, the King.

There he dwells and dwells.

Jews’-Hair, you’ll not grow grey.

And your Eye – where does your Eye dwell?

Your Eye dwells on the Almond.

Your Eye, on Nothing it dwells.

It dwells on the King.

So it dwells and dwells.

Human-Hair, you’ll not grow grey.

Empty Almond, regally-blue.

Afternoon Of Circus And Citadel

In Brest, before the Fire-Hoops burning,

In the Tent, where Tigers sprang,

there I heard you, Finite, singing,

there I saw you, Mandelstam.

The Sky hung over the Roadstead,

the Gull, hung over the Crane.

The Finite sang there, the Constant –

you, the Gunboat, Baobab.

I hailed the Tricolor

with a Russian Word –

the Lost was Un-Lost,

the Heart Anchored there.

To Stand in the Shadow

To stand in the Shadow

of the Wound’s-Mark in the Air.

For no-one and nothing to Stand.


for you


With all, that within finds Room,

even without


When You Lie

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



On my Right

On my Right – who? The Death-Woman.

And you, on my Left, you?

The Wandering-Sickles in extra-

heavenly Place

mime themselves grey-white

Moon-Swallows, together,


I plunge there

and pour an Urnful

down onto you,

in you.

I Can Still See You

I can still see you: an Echo,

to be touched with Feeler-

Words, on the Parting-


Your face softly shies away,

when all at once there is

lamp-like brightness

in me, at the Point,

where most painfully one says Never.


Illegibility of this

World. All twice-over.

Robust Clocks

agree the Cracked-Hour,


You, clamped in your Depths,

climb out of yourself

for ever.

World. All twice-over.

Whorish Other-When

Whorish other-when. And Eternity

blood-black en-babelled.


with your loamy Locks

my Faith.

Two Fingers, hand-far,

row towards a swampy


World. All twice-over.

I Hear

I hear, the Axe has flowered,

I hear, the Place is un-nameable,

I hear, the Bread, that looks on him,

heals the Hanged-Man,

the Bread, his Wife baked for him,

I hear, they name Life

our sole Refuge.

World. All twice-over.

With the Voice

With the voice of the Field-mouse

You squeak up,

a sharp


you bite through my Shirt into the Skin,

a Cloth,

you slither over my Mouth,

in the midst of my,

to you, Shadow, burdensome,


Stuttered-Over-Again World

Stuttered-over-again World,

where I shall have been

a Guest, a Name,

sweated down from the Wall,

that a Wound licks up.

World. All twice-over.

Only When

Only when

as a Shade I touch you,

will you believe my


that climbs with Late-

Minded things up there

around the


you come to the Host

of the Twice-Using among

the Angels,



World. All twice-over.

Little Night

Little Night: when you

take me within, within,

up there,

three Pain-Inches above

the Floor:

all the Shroud-Coats of Sand,

all the Help-Nots,

all, that still


with the Tongue -

The Trumpet-Part

The Trumpet-Part

deep in the glowing


at Torch-Height,

in the Time-Hole:

listen in

with your Mouth.

World. All twice-over.

The Poles

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.

Index of First Lines

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved

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