by Paul Celan
not on my lips look for your mouth,
not in front of the gate for the stranger,
not in the eye for the tear.
seven nights higher red makes for red,
seven hearts deeper the hand knocks on the gate,
seven roses later plashes the fountain.
Paul Celan, born in Romania to a Jewish family in 1920, grew to become a poet and a gifted translator of poetry. Although a polyglot, he wrote his poems in German, specifically in the personal German of his mother’s house. His relationship to the language inevitably changed after he lost his family in the Holocaust. He said, “There is nothing on earth that can prevent a poet from writing, not even the fact that he’s Jewish and German is the language of his poems.” His poems demonstrate the malleability and inventiveness of language with a profound density and courage.