Home Links The Poems Index - German Index - English Readings Essay

Nelly Sachs

Teile dich Nacht /

O Night, Divide

(1971) - part 2


Wieder Mitte geworden

Again the skeletons  

are dancing

you can hear the distant music –

snatches of it

like the buzzing of infernal bees –

then moments of respite:

the greedy swarm

of diggers in your graveyard soul

surprised and stopped awhile by awe –

God glancing gentle down –

Früh die Meere

These cryptic seashell-echoes:


of eternity


of what was early

washed away –

attempts to read the warning

strewn within the bruises of the dawn

and of the dusk –

to hear the strangled call

of lost enchanted truth

and seek the undiscovered


of the lightning-bolt –

Der Raum unter den Füßen

The goal: whilst still earth-bound

to amplify the primal Word – let there be light –

by giving up

the little shade

that makes a home on earth –

Abend in die Knie


in a weakened knee –

to die’s

a solitary task

The whole world

seen to be asleep

and just oneself


that final curse

of loneliness

which Adam first incurred

when he began to hear

the measured tick of mortal time –

Was für sprechene Sprößlinge

How to read the riddling signs?

One strategy:

to sniff the sweet nocturnal scent

of fresh shoots sprouting in the window-box –

The other way:

much as a shrewd geologist

will read his severed veins of rock –

to take a scalpel to the livid silence

of one’s laid-out memories –

Hier nehme ich euch gefangen

Here I have you trapped

you words

And you – look – you’ve caught me

You have me thrashing in your net

My heart is beating to a rhythm of your choice

your urgent exigencies mould this void

that is my life

Persuade me

my obsession makes me like the birds above

Persuade me I’m not dead –




the primal source

of present human anguish

is the echo of an owl-cry

from the days of Noah’s ark –


the lost survivors’

penitential nightmare-fear

of further floods –

Wisst ihr von mir

Have you then heard of me

you dead?

This quest of mine to channel you:

a myriad circling voices

from the galaxies of memory

My sharp-edged dreams enshrine your wounds –

I seek to excavate your fate –

You know you press me hard

your urgent absence

like a falling tide

These reliquary shells amidst the weeds:

a whispering

of wild primordial words –

Da in der Nacht


in the stinging-nettle wood


A frantic climbing

branch by branch

to flee

the death-wish dark


And then a violent motion:

rocked from side to side

and up and down

With hands outstretched –

in supplication –

Veiled in glowing-sodden timber smoke:

these breathless prayers –

Was siehst du Auge

O other eye

what – say – do you perceive

in what I’ve carved?

My only wish for you  

is better contemplative knowledge

of the shades of night in all their mystery

Indeed my unknown fellow-traveller

I wish you well –

Im schwarzen Wasser Schlaf

A world asleep: black waters

with a glimmer here and there

There are indeed some frightful crimes

the powers-that-be have disinterred

But mine’s another sort of death

It fills the skies

They’ve rented out the very air

I need to breathe –

Die Gipfel der Berge

The mountain tops

will kiss each other

when they see humanity

dismantle its stockades

The rainbow then

will reign

and all the open wounds of earth

be salved –

Und reden quer


crooked musings –

from the shadows underneath the bridge

the soft mirth of a Barbary dove

or maybe Falada

the talking horse

O you O you

3 drops of blood from broken heart

And overhead

on both sides of the arch

the rumbling rhetoric of war

from muddied mouths –

Go to Part 3