Paul Celan Maggie Jaffe Poetry

local_library Paul Celan

by Maggie Jaffe

Published in Issue No. 19 ~ December, 1998

You didn’t die
the mauve death . . .

Here is a man.
Here is a despised man,
a pariah with a human tongue.
In his mother tongue
he speaks good German:
“der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland.”*
Here is a rifle and a bullet.
Here his mother, her ash-
colored hair streaked with blood.
Here is an oven, here a shovel.
Here a man digs his own grave
while another man drinks,
he drinks ice-clear vodka,
his eyes are blue.
Here is a man moved to stone.
No stone to mark his mother’s
grave: bone, ash, smoke.
Here is a stranger without papers,
a rucksack filled with poems.
Black sun, mute earth,
River Seine is home.

* A German speaking Romanian Jew, Celan spent two years in a German death camp removing rubble. When he was released, he learned of his parents’ death: his mother was shot by the Nazis. He emigrated to Paris in 1948 and committed suicide by drowning in 1970. “Death is a Master from Germany” is from “Death Fugue,” a poem which he later distanced himself from for being “too explicit.”

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Maggie Jaffe's publications include How The West Was One, Continuous Performance, 7th Circle and 1492: What Is It Like To Be Discovered?, a collaboration with the artist Deborah Small. Maggie is the recipient of a 1997 California Arts Council grant and is Poetry Editor of Cedar Hill Review and Editorial Assistant of Rattle.