Paul Celan’s “Stretto”

Paul Celan.

Paul Celan.

Paul Celan’s poem “Stretto,” translated by John Felstiner:

*

Taken off into
the terrain
with the unmistakable trace:

Grass, written asunder. The stones, white
with the grassblades' shadows:
Read no more—look!
Look no more—go!

Go, your hour
has no sisters, you are—
are at home. Slowly a wheel
rolls out of itself, the spokes
clamber,
clamber on the blackened field, night
needs no stars, nowhere
are you asked after.

*

	Nowhere

	
	are you asked after—

The place where they lay, it has
a name—it has
none. They did not lie there. Something
lay between them. They
did not see through it.

Did not see, no,
spoke of
words. Not one
awoke,
sleep
came over them.

*


	Came, came. Nowhere

	
	asked—

I'm the one, I,
I lay between you, I was
open, was
audible, I ticked toward you, your breath
obeyed, I
am still the one, and
you're sleeping.

*

	Am still the one—

Years.
Years, years, a finger
gropes down and up, gropes
all around:
sutures, palpable, here
it gapes wide open, here
it grew back together—who
covered it up?

*

	Covered it

	
	up—who?

Came, came.
Came a word, came,
came through the night,
would glisten, would glisten.

Ashes.
Ashes, ashes.
Night.
Night-and-night.—Go
to the eye, to the moist one.

*

	Go

	
	to the eye,

	
	
	to the moist one—

Hurricanes.
Hurricanes, from all time,
particle flurry, the other thing,
you
know this, we
read it in a book, was
opinion.

Was, was
opinion. How
did we take
hold—hold with
these
hands?

It was also written that.
Where? We
decked it in silence,
poison-hushed, huge
a
green
silence, a sepal, a
thought of something plantlike hung there—
green, yes,
hung, yes,
under spiteful
skies.

Of, yes,
plantlike.

Yes.
Hurricanes, par-
ticle flurry, there was still
time, still,
to try with the stone—it
was welcoming, it
did not interrupt. How
good we had it:

Grainy,
grainy and stringy. Stalky,
thick;
bunchy and radiate; knobby,
level and
lumpy; crumbling, out-
branching--: the stone, it
did not interrupt, it
spoke,
spoke gladly to dry eyes, before it shut them.

Spoke, spoke.
Was, was.

We
would not let go, stood firm
in the midst, a
framework of pores, and
it came.

Came up to us, came
on through, it mended
invisibly, mended
on the final membrane,
and
the world, thousandfaced crystal,
shot out, shot out.

*

	Shot out, shot out.

	
	Then—

Nights, demixed. Circles,
green or blue, red
squares: the
world sets its inmost
at stake with the new
hours.--Circles,
red or black, bright
squares, no
flight shadow,
no
plane table, no
chimney soul rises and joins in.

*

	Rises and

	
	joins in—

At owls' flight, near the
petrified lepra,
near
our fugitive hands, at
the latest rejection,
above the
bullet trap on
the ruined wall:

visible, once
again: the
grooves, the

choirs, back then, the
Psalms. Ho, ho-
sannah.

Therefore
temples still stand. A
star
may still give light.
Nothing,
nothing is lost.

Ho-
sannah.

At owls' flight, here,
the conversations, daygray,
of groundwater traces.

*

	(— —daygray,

	
	of

	
	groundwater traces—

Taken off
into the terrain
with
the unmistakable
trace:

Grass.
Grass,
written asunder.) 

Felstiner’s 2010 essay “‘Deep in the time-crevasse': Celan’s Outward and Inward Landscape” is available here.

3 thoughts on “Paul Celan’s “Stretto”

  1. David Ian Rabey

    Not a comment, so much as a public wondering: I wonder if Celan’s poetry is an influence (conscious or unconscious) on the recent (1980s and onwards) lyrics of Scott Walker…? I sense affinities, and I mean that as a multilateral compliment.

  2. George Hunka Post author

    I’m unfamiliar with Scott Walker’s lyrics, David, but I will certainly look into them.

  3. Joshua Ruebl

    George-

    Scott Walker is the best singer-songwriter of the last 40 years. Start with his earlier Brel influenced work and then listen to his most recent work influenced by Glenn Branca and Harry Partsch.

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