A Poem or something, a gift, a song, for Paul Celan at 100

Her hand giant shadow

 mit Bleistift

on ceiling with night

reading light

pillowed between us —

graphites an unseen

page, on which

I’ll write, standing up

in the kitchen,

                             the good, no

the best thing about

night is it is

always a pre-


               It goes way back,

1/2 time between your birth

& now, I

with a double breath-

turn (yours & mine),


      before take-off

           father had asked for

               a shakehand 

(a poem is that

you said and

then let go)        in

           not my mother-


           in my future

        language he knew reversed

        from early 1945 camp

           fires in another night,


darker one you

knew too.

        What had freed father,

drew me over,

               (you already knew better

               had —August ’49— heard

              Gordon Heath sing climbing

               jacob’s ladder, “twice he sang it, at

              the beginning and at the end”

              & in between strange fruit

              & a fraught encounter with

              the blond Northerner still &

              always freed fascist “doing Paris”

              at your table in, not on, the échelle) 

and we are climbing some kind of ladder

different for each as should be

       you to Paris

           me to New York

             both with faith only in no faith

the right to blaspheme

as first right left

     after the third reich fell then

      & now the first empire here

      is falling down

falling down.

      My first crossing

                   (between your visit to Heidegger

                               & your first trip to Berlin)

      ferried me across the Charlie Gibbs

                   fracture zone a transform fault dis-

                              places the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,

lands me in a “thickness: 

     to be understood from the geological, 

        and thus from the slow 

catastrophes & the dreadful fault-

     lines of language ——” 

        but it is there

in the faultlines that writing starts.

                              You wrote:


      eyeing the autumn-

      colchis, the mother-


      murdered masts and sails. Everything set forth,

      free,” (but we ban

that late loser, found

& lost

      by people he murdered, 

another, our, atonement, I, here still

fifty years after your death —

which is not that of the book, that buch-,

that buch-

stable staff as

the beech is as the tree is the book the Buche

from your Book-, your Buk-

-ovina, the

     first book, the one that

has the autumn crocus

only only a secret echo 

      of the literally timeless, 

name of their colchique, 

     our autumn crocus


           called up by reality

to meet again in the imagination

of your city, my city

all gathered in

one stands brightly on no

hill but by the sea, even if a black

sea, even if Colchis

is & is not 

New York

from where I greet you

this morning

on your hundredth birth





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4 Responses

  1. Jerome says:


  2. Larkin Higgins says:

    extraordinary poem…definitely a gift…& reading it out loud–song-like……..all of the above

  3. Lissa Wolsak says:

    Resounding, a marvel!

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