Paul Celan's Birthday

Paul Celan would be 87 today, had he not opted out in 1970 at age 50. 1920-1970: one version of the short twentieth century for sure, the core is war & destruction of people(s). There was no home-coming, no harbor for him. And yet, it is exactly in that meeting space of earth and water, the archipelagic space where the other can be, has to be met, that Celan felt most at home. One of the longer poems (in fact the single longest of his poems after the rewriting of the “Todesfuge” as “Engführung”) of Breathturn is called “Hafen” / “Harbor.” Here it is this 23rd November, day of his birth, giving permission to celebrate those inbetween places, which even today are the spaces which may teach us how to invent a shared togetherness with others.


Sorehealed: where-,
when you were like me, criss-
and crossdreamt by
schnappsbottlenecks at the
whore table

— cast
my happiness aright, Seahair,
heap up the wave, that carries me, Blackcurse,
break your way
through the hottest womb,
Icesorrowpen —,

didn’t you come to lie with me, even
on the benches
at Mother Clausen’s, yes, she
knows, how often I sang all
the way up into your throat, hey-didlle-doo,
like the bilberryblue
alder of homeland with all its leaves,
you, like the
astral-flute from
beyond the worldridge — there too
we swam, nakednudes, swam,
the abyssverse on
the fire red forehead — unconsumed by
fire the deep-
inside flooding gold
dug its paths upwards —,

with eyelashed sails,
remembrance too drove past, slowly
the conflagration jumped over, cut-
off, you,
cut off on
the two blue-
black memory-
but driven on now also
by the thousand-
arm, with which I held you,
they cruise, past starthrow-dives,
our still drunk, still drinking
byworldly mouths — I name only them —

till over there at the timegreen clocktower
the net-, the numberskin soundlessly
peels off — a delusion-dock,
swimming, before it,
off-world-white the
letters of the
cat, the trolley, life, which
the sense-
greedy sentences dredge up, after midnight,
at which
neptunic sin throws its corn-
schnapps-colored towrope,
toned lovesoundbuoys
— draw-well-winch back then, with you
it sings in the no longer
inland choir —
the beaconlightships come dancing,
from afar, from Odessa,

the loadline,
which sinks with us, true to our burden,
Owlglasses all that
downwards, upwards, and why not? sorehealed, where-,
hither and past and hither.

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