Skip to content
Congratulations to 2021 Ottaway Award winner Naveen Kishore! Learn more.
from the October 2015 issue

From Watering the Plant of Dreaming (Dialogue with Paul Celan)

Author's Note: The following is an active, experimental dialogue with a beloved poet; texts are constructed around single verses from the German poet, distanced from the original context and used as crumbs to ignite a new poetic explosion.


Nights close
my palm,
               I touch you                                                                              
and you are ink.


Too many things already said,
too much already breathed,

in my palm
only a stone spit out again
small as
an almond

(the sweet part is too
hidden and the shell
is too hard)

Count me among the almonds                                     Zähle mich zu den Mandeln


The tongue flies anyplace, rolls off,
throw it away, throw it away                               wirf sie weg, wirf sie weg
and you shall have it back;                                 dann hast du sie wieder                     
it will be a whirling in your ear
a wing that opens to measure the sky.


When the mouth
spits the word,
there’s a rhythm, between
"me and you"
that’s a clod
sliced by a blade,          
worm that then
finds life again.


This twisting
of feet, like walking                   
in sleep, like
the story in
an ear already glass


With the eye-                                                       mit den Augen-
I cut                                                       schere
your profile, fixing you                      
with the time-blade
that never rusts.   


What’s uprooted comes back together…             was abriss, wachst wieder zusammen…
the name, the name, the hand, the hand:            den Namen, den Namen, die Hand, die Hand

on my hand
balances the leaf
that in this light
does not grow:

put it in a glove                                                          
because the wind will shred it,
put it in a pocket so that
from here it can’t revive.


Sink me away,                                                    Sink mir weg…wirf dich
throw yourself out,                                                       aus
here only mirror                
burns, black sun
where letters roll.


The shoulder blade is already the ax
a tablet of unwritten laws:
to embrace tires
to point traps
to grow twists

From Da una Crepa (Turin: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 2014). By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2015 by Wallis Wilde-Menozzi. All rights reserved.

Read more from the October 2015 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.