The Hours and other poems by Paul Celan (1920-1970)
Poems from the German by Jason Francisco

from smokemouth to smokemouth.

they eat:
madhouse-truffles, a piece
of unburied poetry,
scavenged tongue and tooth.

a tear rolls behind its eye.

the left hand, orphaned
half of the pilgrim’s
shell—they donated it to you,
then bound you—
eavesdrops from brilliant space:

the clinkergame against death
can begin.


as hutwindow.  it gathers
what was world, remains world:  the wandering
east, the
hoverers, the
the cloud-come-people, with
heartfingers magnetically attracting
you, earth:
you come, you are coming,
we will come to dwell, dwell, something

—a breath?  a name?—

drifts orphanlike,
dancingly, cloddish,
the angel-
wing, heavy with unseen things, the
sore foot, the lorn head
by black hail that
also fell there, at vitebsk,

—and they, who sowed it, they
write it away
with mimetic tank-fist-claws!—

walks, walks around,
searches below,
searches above, far, searches
with eyes, secures
alpha centuri, and arcturus, secures
the extra beam, from the graves,

goes to ghetto and eden, plucks
the tandem constellation, the one
humans use for living, here,
beneath humans,

from the letter and the mortal-
immortal alphabetic soul,
goes to aleph and yud and goes farther,

builds it, the davidshield, lets it
flame, outward, once,

lets it die out—he stands there,
hidden, stands

by the side of aleph and aleph, next to yud,
and the others, beside

all, everyone:  in

beis,—that is
the house, where the one table stands with

the light and the light.

against the instabilities:

two fingers
are snapping in the abyss, a world
is rustling
in the ill book, it all comes down
to you.


THE HOURS, may-colored, cool.
the no-longer-named, hot,
audible in the mouth.

no one’s voice, again.

eyeball-depths, aching:
the lid
does not stand in the way, the lash
does not count the entrances.

the tear, halved,
the sharper lens, movable,
brings you back in images.


IN THE ALMOND—what stands in the almond?
nothing is standing in the almond.
there it stands and stands.

in the nothing—what stands there?  the king.
the king, the king is there, standing.
he stands there and stands.

jewcurl, you’re not turning gray.

and your eye—whereabout does your eye stand?
your eye stands against the almond.
your eye, against the nothing, standing.
it is standing before the king,
so it stands and stands.

humancurl, you’re not turning gray.
nulled-almond, king-blue.


WHAT WAS WRITTEN is what burrows, what was
burns in the coves,

in the
liquified names
leap dolphins,

in the perpetual nowhere, here,
in the memory of the too-
loud bells—which are where?—

in this
snorts, who
underneath it
shimmers on, shimmers on, shimmers on?


NO ONE kneads us again from earth and clay,
no one contemplates our dust.
no one.

blessed are you, no one.
for your sake
we are blooming.
contrary to

we were, we are, we become, we remain
a nothing, blooming:
the nothing—, the
no one’s rose.

the pistil soulbright,
the stamen heavensavaged,
the corolla red
from the crimson word, the one we sang
over, oh over
the thorn.


PLACETURNING near the substances:
go toward yourself, fasten yourself
by the side of missing

i hear, we were
a skygrowth,
the remains that would prove, from
above-here, along
our rootedness,

two suns exist, do you hear,
not one—
and so—?