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You Were My Death
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You were my death;
I could hold you
when everything abandoned me—
even breath.

Paul Celan (1920-1970) was a Romanian Jew who wrote poems in German. He survived the Holocaust, despite the loss of his mother and father, to become one of the major German-language poets of the post–World War II era. His parents' deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust have been called the "defining forces" in Celan's poetry.

Keywords/Tags: Paul Celan, Holocaust poems, Holocaust poetry, Shoah, German, translation, death, breath, abandoned, abandonment, hold, holding, Germany, racism, antisemitism, injustice, brutality, genocide, ethnic cleansing, World War II, world conflicts
O, Little Root of a Dream
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, little root of a dream
you enmire me here;
I’m undermined by blood―
made invisible,
death's possession.

Touch the curve of my face,
that there may yet be an earthly language of ardor,
that someone else’s eyes
may somehow still see me,
though I’m blind,

here where you
deny me voice.

Paul Celan (1920-1970) was a Romanian Jew who wrote poems in German. He survived the Holocaust, despite the loss of his mother and father, to become one of the major German-language poets of the post–World War II era. His parents' deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust have been called the "defining forces" in Celan's poetry.

Keywords/Tags: Paul Celan, Holocaust poems, Holocaust poetry, Shoah, German, translation, root, dream, blood, death, face, eyes, blind, sight, seeing, vision, voice, voiceless, silent, silenced, ardor, love, passion, desire, Germany, abandoned, racism, antisemitism, injustice, brutality, genocide, ethnic cleansing, World War II, world conflicts
Todesfugue ("Death Fugue")
by Paul Celan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come midday, come morning, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
We’re digging a grave like a hole in the sky;
there’s sufficient room to lie there.
The man of the house plays with vipers; he writes
in the Teutonic darkness, “Your golden hair Margarete...”
He composes by starlight, whistles hounds to stand by,
whistles Jews to dig graves, where together they’ll lie.
He commands us to strike up bright tunes for the dance!

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come dawn, come midday, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
The man of the house plays with serpents; he writes...
he writes as the night falls, “Your golden hair Margarete...
Your ashen hair Shulamith...”
We are digging dark graves where there’s more room, on high.
His screams, “Hey you, dig there!” and “Hey you, sing and dance!”
He grabs his black nightstick, his eyes pallid blue,
screaming, “Hey you―dig deeper! You others―sing, dance!”

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come dusk;
we drink you come midday, come morning, come night;
we drink you and drink you.
The man of the house writes, “Your golden hair Margarete...
Your ashen hair Shulamith...” as he cultivates snakes.
He screams, “Play Death more sweetly! Death’s the master of Germany!”
He cries, “Scrape those dark strings, soon like black smoke you’ll rise
to your graves in the skies; there’s sufficient room for Jews there!”

Black milk of daybreak, we drink you come midnight;
we drink you come midday; Death’s the master of Germany!
We drink you come dusk; we drink you and drink you...
He’s a master of Death, his pale eyes deathly blue.
He fires leaden slugs, his aim level and true.
He writes as the night falls, “Your golden hair Margarete...”
He unleashes his hounds, grants us graves in the skies.
He plays with his serpents; Death’s the master of Germany...

“Your golden hair Margarete...
your ashen hair Shulamith...”

Paul Celan (1920-1970) was a Romanian Jew who wrote poems in German. He survived the Holocaust, despite the loss of his mother and father, to become one of the major German-language poets of the post–World War II era. His parents' deaths and the horrors of the Holocaust have been called the "defining forces" in Celan's poetry.

Keywords/Tags: Paul Celan, Holocaust poems, Holocaust poetry, Shoah, German, translation, black, milk, drink, vipers, serpents, hounds, grave, graves, golden, hair, Margarete, Shulamith, sing, dance, Death, master, Germany, Nazis, racism, antisemitism, injustice, brutality, genocide, ethnic cleansing, World War II, world conflicts
co'h Nov 2018
i don't know how people walk the streets of this city as if they were simple streets

a synagogue stood there once
and there
and there
and there

these streets are to be hiked, these streets are trees

these streets were clean until a man was forced to scrub them
and another man
and another man
and another man

a mountain of words disappeared into smoke right there
and there
and there
and there
people were next
and next and next and next and next and next

these streets will talk to anybody willing to listen, nightmares galore

a waggon stopped there once
and there neighbors
and there teachers
and there doctors
and there students
and there friends
and there humans

we didn't know what was happening, we didn't know, we didn't know
not quite sure what this is, but I've been needing to get this off my mind somehow, I tried to draw but nothing came to me, maybe words will help this time

— The End —