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Nelly Sachs

Fahrt ins Staublose/

Out Beyond This Realm of Dust


Wer von der Erde kommt


an unimaginable


arrives –

a meteor-strike of patent truth



with the power

to blast

a soul on high.


go the bright-winged prayers:

visionary tunnelling

of grief and dreams.

And then the craters

fill with tears.

We spin through emptiness and out

beyond this realm of dust.

The colonies that earth’s homesickness builds

need no great wharfs.

A little mooring space will do

for small craft

cradled on the music

of the sunlit waters, cradled

on the rhythm

of the still unbroken

lapping of eternity:

through life and death –

Du in der Nacht


by night

so busy unlearning the world:

from far far away

your finger depicted the ice-cave.

You drafted a musical map of the seas.

In the shell of your ear its notes came together.

Bricklaying with words –

a bridge

across mystery.

Joint venture

of heaven and earth –

Mund saugend am Tod




a flowering as of starry rays

that issue

from the well-composted secrets

of spilt blood

As death draws close

its silence starts to speak

and eyes that would not see

beneath the surface of the world

are rendered visionary

A cloth that bears its icy stains

has wiped the face

of dawning light.

Vergebens verbrennen die Briefe

Primaeval night.

And all our messages

are piled up on the exile-bonfire.

Yet in vain –

for love bursts crackling from the thorns

to leap in lashing martyr-flames

and kiss the unseen heights

of heaven with a song.

The cave-walls stage their shadow-show.

The air is trembling

with a breeze

that tugs the threatened noose

and prays:

Just wait

until the desert-roasted alphabet

is made our consecrated food

once more.

Just wait

until we have prophetic guides again

to read the lava flows of love

and trace the outcrops

of its very first and fieriest


there on the page

that dying sings:

And the Word was

with God

And the Word

 O my love

  the Word was –

Der Schwan

One moment


then the waters open

to primordial swan-geometry –

sheer grace

which now unfolds

and next dips down once more

to taste mortality –

and so

transfigures all –

Ich weiß nicht mehr

I no longer know

what birdsong means

And yet I have a sense

the sea is full of sobbing angels


of exposure

to a life of flight –

I wonder

whether there is any cure

for soft-skinned souls made prey

to swordfish-stabs of too-demanding love

or absolutist

white-hot bubblings-up of hidden bitterness

I worry lest

my sorry light is doomed

to be extinguished in the end

because I miss my calling

whilst asleep

Auf dem Markt

In the market

piles of produce

lie like victims of a pogrom –

this tomato will explode

inside your mouth.

The money changes hands –

but suddenly

you find yourself behind a moat

of darkest night,

no drawbridge

to the dealer

as he reaches out

to take.

These relics of Creation

on the counter:

they’re a call to prayer,

a cry

as if of mutilated syllables

intent on rediscovering

their proper, squandered harmony.

Der Umriss /

The Outline

What traces linger

of the world that was

before the comet struck?

No more than as a now discarded ring

recalls the finger

that it once adorned.

All else has flown away.

The void

before Creation:

covenant of grief.

Night-time reality


the gilded self-indulgence of mere Day.

My legacy:

a dire calligraphy of shadows.


and prophetic waterways

all drowned

in dead-end dark.

Bed, chair and table

stole on tiptoe from the room,

that tragic scene was all played out –

So many faces

in the ghostly baggage train –

but only you, my love,

to keep me company in dream-filled life

until the curtain falls –

In diesem Amethyst

This amethyst is layered

thick with ancient dark

shot through

with earlier intelligence of light:

a petrifaction

of once-liquid grief

Your dying’s still a bright

and brutal violet