A Poem by Nelly Sachs

From Flight and Metamorphosis, translated from the German by Joshua Weiner with Linda B. Parshall

October 19, 2020  By Nelly Sachs

And everywhere
the human in the sun
throwing the black bloodletting, guilt
onto the sand—
and only in sleep
the hiding place with no tears
with the blazing arrow of homesickness
flying from the skin’s quiver—

Here, though,
just letters
that scratch the eye
but already long ago became
useless wisdom teeth,
remains of an age gone numb.

But now
the weather-cherub
the four-winds scarf
not to pick strawberries
in the forests of speech
but rather
to blow the trumpet one way, then another
in the darkness

for there’s no refuge
to be found
in the flying dust
and only the windscarf
a moveable crown
signals, still flickering,
blazoned with restless stars
the course of the world—


Excerpted from Flight and Metamorphosis (Flucht und Verwandlung) by Nelly Sachs, translated by Joshua Weiner, to be published in 2021 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Translation copyright © 2020 by Joshua Weiner. All rights reserved.

Nelly Sachs
Nelly Sachs
Nelly Sachs (1891–1970) was a German-Swedish playwright and poet. Her collections of poetry include In den Wohnungen des Todes (1947), Flucht und Verwandlung (1959), Fahrt ins Staublose (1961), and Suche nach Lebenden (1971). She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966. Joshua Weiner is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish (2013). His translation (with Linda B. Parshall) of Nelly Sachs’s Flight and Metamorphosis is forthcoming in 2021 from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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