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Nelly Sachs

Fahrt ins Staublose/

Out Beyond This Realm of Dust

(1961)





Wer von der Erde kommt


Apocalypse:

an unimaginable

otherness

arrives –

a meteor-strike of patent truth

igniting

memory-explosions

with the power

to blast

a soul on high.

Bang

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


You

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


Death-suckled

infancy:

behold

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

eruption:


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

nothing

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

fearful

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

behind

the gilded self-indulgence of mere Day.


My legacy:

a dire calligraphy of shadows.


Meadows

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