Wednesday, February 1, 2023



I was always

The passenger

Who made the boat more likely to sink



I was born

A little before my due date

On the night when controversy raged

About everything

A release conditional on obeying the terms

I was born deceived and still am deceived

At the moment when Satan was drinking a toast to his third victory

On the night when knives were being sharpened

I was born

With a memory sewn together with a needle and thread

Full grown in a way

With ideas liable to change

With an arm not up to armed combat

With a soul where anxiety has taken root

With a mouth that stammers when it speaks

And a compound name with no links to modernity

And a heart open to all possibilities

I was born

By divine decree

In the alleys

Of the third world

Following Plan B

In a somewhat primitive way

In the clinic of a midwife who didn’t believe in fate

I was born in installments

With this body liberated

From the womb that kept trying to abort it.


To The Drowned Paul Celan


As if it is happening now

That river in whose head you spin

Remembers you

Until now

It remembers

Your lined forehead

Your eyes staring

Into unknown spaces

Your hand furrowed

By a scalpel and your terrifying jump

On that crazy morning

Celan everything was real

In that obscure event

Your waterproof shoes

Your last cigarette

The Mirabeau bridge

The distant whistles of the steamboats

Your shadow that always wanted you to look different

The dreams that left you imagining how the final scene would be

And this sky with its seven layers

Why didn’t you think about things for longer?

Was the world so terrifying?

What are you doing to tell the world about the magnetic river mud

A garden settled in the face of nature

Or roots of a river squeezed between two banks


The sun was present at the farewell ceremony

And the eager water applauded

With great enthusiasm

Your overwhelming presence

The German-speaking Jew

The comrade tormented in concentration camps


We miss you

We who don’t read much

We who press on these fingers

So they say something

We who rely on chance

To find ourselves

We who are trying to make you a promise


A Concert


In a while

And with these fingers that have never pulled a trigger

I will play a tune

On a sunflower

On your shirt buttons if I can

A tune

Longer than the river Rhine

More powerful than the whistling of the wind that travels with its diplomatic passport

To the sound of rumbling tanks

I will play that rebel tune

To the audience who doesn’t take the performance seriously

To the sun that investigates the identity of the new prophets

To dogs who think about sex

To that invincible force

I will play a tune

With or without these crooked fingers

On matchboxes

On walls

Where ‘The people want’ is written

On barbed wire sharper than it ought to be

On shoes that run marathons on bad days

I’ll play the tune

That’s spreading through these fingers now

Like a boat that has overcome its obsession with sinking.


Translated By: Catherine Cobham


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