Paul Celan: Death fugue, In Egypt

Todesfuge / Deathfugue
In Agypten / In Egypt
Zahle die Mandeln / Count up the almonds
Mit wechselndem Schlussel / With a Changing Key
Tenebrae / Tenebrae
Engfuhrung / Stretto
Es war Erde in ihnen / There was earth inside them
Psalm / Psalm
Mandorla / Mandorla
In eins / In one
Stehen / To stand
Fadensonnen / Threadsuns


Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening
we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night
we drink and we drink
we shovel a grave in the air where you won’t lie too cramped
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margareta
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling he whistles his hounds to stay close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
he commands us play up for the dance

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margareta
Your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air where you won’t lie too cramped

He shouts dig this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play
he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are so blue
stick your spades deeper you lot there you others play on for the dancing

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening
we drink and we drink
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margareta
you aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers

He shouts play death more sweetly this Death is a master from Deutschland
he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise up as smoke to the sky
you’ll then have a grave in the clouds where you won’t lie too cramped

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night
we drink you at midday Death is a master aus Deutschland
we drink you at evening and morning we drink and we drink
this Death is ein Meister aus Deutschland his eye it is blue
he shoots you with shot made of lead shoots you level and true
a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margarete
he looses his hounds on us grants us a grave in the air
he plays with his vipers and daydreams der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland

dein goldenes Haar Margarete
dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

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In Egypt

Thou shalt say to the eye of the woman stranger: Be the water.
Thou shalt seek in the stranger’s eye those thou knowest are in the water.
Thou shalt summon them from the water: Ruth! Naomi! Miriam!
Thou shalt adorn them when thou liest with the stranger.
Thou shalt adorn them with the stranger’s cloud-hair.
Thou shalt say to Ruth and Miriam and Naomi:
Behold, I sleep with her!
Thou shalt most beautifully adorn the woman stranger near thee.
Thou shalt adorn her with sorrow for Ruth, for Miriam and Naomi.
Thou shalt say to the stranger:
Behold, I slept with them!

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Count up the almonds

Count up the almonds,
count what was bitter and kept you waking,
count me in too:

I sought your eye when you looked out and no one saw you,
I spun that secret thread
where the dew you mused on
slid down to pitchers
tended by a word that reached no one’s heart.

There you first fully entered the name that is yours,
you stepped toward yourself on steady feet,
the hammers swung free in the belfry of your silence,
things overheard thrust through to you,
what’s dead put its arm around you too,
and the three of you walked through the evening.

Render me bitter.
Number me among the almonds.

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With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

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Near are we, Lord,
near and graspable.

Grasped already, Lord,
clawed into each other, as if
each of our bodies were
your body, Lord.

Pray, Lord,
pray to us,
we are near.

Wind-skewed we went there,
went there to bend
over pit and crater.

Went to the water-trough, Lord.

It was blood, it was
what you shed, Lord.

It shined.

It cast your image into our eyes, Lord.
Eyes and mouth stand so open and void, Lord.
We have drunk, Lord.
The blood and the image that was in the blood, Lord.

Pray, Lord.
We are near.

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Taken off into
the terrain
with the unmistakable trace:

Grass, written asunder. The stones, white
with the grassblades’ shadows:
Read no more—look!
Look no more—go!

Go, your hour
has no sisters, you are—
are at home. Slowly a wheel
rolls out of itself, the spokes
clamber on the blackened field, night
needs no stars, nowhere
are you asked after.


are you asked after—

The place where they lay, it has
a name—it has
none. They did not lie there. Something
lay between them. They
did not see through it.

Did not see, no,
spoke of
words. Not one
came over them.


Came, came. Nowhere

I’m the one, I,
I lay between you, I was
open, was
audible, I ticked toward you, your breath
obeyed, I
am still the one, and
you’re sleeping.


Am still the one—

Years, years, a finger
gropes down and up, gropes
all around:
sutures, palpable, here
it gapes wide open, here
it grew back together—who
covered it up?


Covered it

Came, came.
Came a word, came,
came through the night,
would glisten, would glisten.

Ashes, ashes.
to the eye, to the moist one.


to the eye,
to the moist one—

Hurricanes, from all time,
particle flurry, the other thing,
know this, we
read it in a book, was

Was, was
opinion. How
did we take
hold—hold with

It was also written that.
Where? We
decked it in silence,
poison-hushed, huge
silence, a sepal, a
thought of something plantlike hung there—
green, yes,
hung, yes,
under spiteful

Of, yes,

Hurricanes, par-
ticle flurry, there was still
time, still,
to try with the stone—it
was welcoming, it
did not interrupt. How
good we had it:

grainy and stringy. Stalky,
bunchy and radiate; knobby,
level and
lumpy; crumbling, out-
branching–: the stone, it
did not interrupt, it
spoke gladly to dry eyes, before it shut them.

Spoke, spoke.
Was, was.

would not let go, stood firm
in the midst, a
framework of pores, and
it came.

Came up to us, came
on through, it mended
invisibly, mended
on the final membrane,
the world, thousandfaced crystal,
shot out, shot out.


Shot out, shot out.

Nights, demixed. Circles,
green or blue, red
squares: the
world sets its inmost
at stake with the new
red or black, bright
squares, no
flight shadow,
plane table, no
chimney soul rises and joins in.


Rises and
joins in—

At owls’ flight, near the
petrified lepra,
our fugitive hands, at
the latest rejection,
above the
bullet trap on
the ruined wall:

visible, once
again: the
grooves, the

choirs, back then, the
Psalms. Ho, ho-

temples still stand. A
may still give light.
nothing is lost.


At owls’ flight, here,
the conversations, daygray,
of groundwater traces.


(— —daygray,
groundwater traces—

Taken off
into the terrain
the unmistakable

written asunder.)

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There was earth inside them

There was earth inside them, and
they dug.

They dug and dug, and so
their day went past, their night. And they did not praise God,
who, so they heard, wanted all this,
who, so they heard, witnessed all this.

They dug and heard nothing more;
they did not grow wise, invented no song,
devised for themselves no sort of language.
They dug.

There came a stillness then, came also storm,
all of the oceans came.
I dig, you dig, and it digs too, the worm,
and the singing there says: They dig.

O one, o none, o no one, o you:
Where did it go then, making for nowhere?
O you dig and I dig, and I dig through to you,
and the ring on our finger awakens.

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No one kneads us again out of earth and clay,
no one incants our dust. No one.

Blessèd art thou, No One.
In thy sight would
we bloom.
In thy

A Nothing
we were, are now, and ever
shall be, blooming:
the Nothing-, the

our pistil soul-bright,
our stamen heaven-waste,
our corona red
from the purpleword we sang
over, O over
the thorn.

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In the almond—what stands in the almond?
The Nothing.
In the almond stands Nothing.
There it stands and stands.

In the Nothing—who stands there? The King.
There stands the King, the King.
There he stands and stands.

      Jewish curls, no gray for you.

And your eye—whereto stands your eye?
Your eye stands opposite the almond.
Your eye, the Nothing it stands opposite.
It stands by the King.
So it stands and stands.

      Human curls, no gray for you.
      Empty almond, kingly blue.

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In One

Thirteenth February. In the heart’s mouth
an awakened shibboleth. With you,
de Paris. No pasarán.

Lambs on the left: he, Abadias,
the old man from Huesca, came with his dogs
across the field, in exile
a white cloud of human
nobleness stood, he spoke
into our hands the word we needed, it was
shepherd Spanish, and in it,

in the icy light of the cruiser “Aurora”:
a brotherly hand, waving the
sash taken from word-
dilated eyes–Petropolis, the
wander city of the unforgotten, lay
Tuscanly close to your heart too.

Peace to the cottages!

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To stand

To stand, in the shadow
of a scar in the air.

for you

With all that has room within it,
even without

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over the grayblack wasteness.
A tree-
high thought
strikes the light-tone: there are
still songs to sing beyond

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