I can still see you: an echo
Maja Ruznic, Daughter (ochre), 2021, courtesy of the artist.

Language: German
Poet: Paul Celan
Translator: Pierre Joris
Region: Kingdom of Romania / France

SHARE:

I can still see you: an echo

Poems from Cycle III of Lightduress by Paul Celan, translated from German by Pierre Joris

Paul Celan was born in Czernowitz, the capital of the Bukovina (now part of Ukraine and Romania), in 1920, to a Jewish family. In 1940 Soviet troops occupied his home town, only to be replaced by Rumanian and German Nazi troops the next year. Celan worked in forced labor camps, where, in the fall of 1942, he learned that his father had been killed by the SS. Later that winter the news reached him that his mother too had been shot. In 1947, he clandestinely crossed over to Vienna, which he left in 1948 to settle in Paris, the city that was to be his home until his suicide by drowning in the Seine in April 1970. Among Celan’s major writings are Mohn und Gedächtnis / Poppy and Memory (1952), Die Niemandsrose / The No-One’s-Rose (1963), Atemwende / Breathturn (1967), and Lichtzwang / Lightduress (1970).

Pierre Joris left Luxembourg at 19, and has since lived in Great Britain, North Africa, France, and the U.S., where he taught poetry & poetics at SUNY Albany until 2012. His translations of  Paul Celan’s poetry include Breathturn, Threadsuns, and Lightduress.

aus Zyklus III, Lichtzwang

WURFSCHEIBE, mit
Vorgesichten besternt,

wirf dich

aus dir hinaus.

        ⭘

KLOPF die
Lichtkeile weg:

das schwimmende Wort
hat der Dämmer.

        ⭘

DIE ENTSPRUNGENEN
Graupapageien
lesen die Messe
in deinem Mund.

Du hörts regnen
und meinst, auch diesmal
sei’s Gott.

        ⭘

IN DEN DUNKELSCHLÄGEN erfuhr ichs:

du lebst auf mich zu, dennoch,
im Steigrohr,
im
Steigrohr.

        ⭘

SCHNEID DIE GEBETSHAND
aus
der Luft
mit der Augen-
schere,
kapp ihre Finger
mit deinem Kuß:

Gefaltetes geht jetzt
atemberaubend vor sich.

        ⭘

ICH KANN DICH NOCH SEHEN: ein Echo,
ertastbar mit Fühl-
wörtern, am Abschieds-
grat.

Dein Gesicht scheut leise,
wenn es auf einmal
lampenhaft hell wird
in mir, an der Stelle,
wo man am schmerzlichsten Nie sagt.

 

from Cycle III of Lightduress

DISCUS, bestarred
with face fronts,

throw yourself

out of yourself.

        ⭘

KNOCK the
lightwedges off:

dusk’s got
the swimming word.

        ⭘

THE ESCAPED
gray parrots
say mass
in your mouth.

You hear it rain
and guess that this time too
it’s God.

        ⭘

IN THE DARK CLEARINGS I learned it:

you live toward me, nevertheless,
in the standpipe,
in the
standpipe.

        ⭘

CUT THE PRAYERHAND
from
the air
with the eye-
scissors,
lop off its fingers
with your kiss:

the folded now happens
breathtakingly

        ⭘

I CAN STILL SEE YOU: an echo,
palpable with feel-
words, at the parting-
ridge.

Your face shies quietly,
when all at once
lamplike it lights up
in me, at the place
where most painfully one says Never.

This was published in Issue 1 of Circumference, Volume 1, Issue 1 • Autumn/Winter 2003 © 2003 CIRCUMFERENCE, Inc.