A Study of Paul Celan’s Death Fugue

by Ian Khadan

I. The Poet Reads Celan’s Death Fugue

Look how we writhe and fling our bodies
into the Death Fugue’s nest, note the copious
snakes and daggers dressing its walls. Note
the belly torn open, a spread for the maggots,
vultures careening in synchronization with
the riverbeds and oceans opened up to swallow
us from existence. Look how we sing holy.

II. The Poet Questions Celan

How have we come to this bridge,
the sharpest blade and razor, how
did we know the smoke and tar
would soothe? How did we embrace
the trigger and barrel? How did we
know the water’s deep, the spurring
puncture and languish of the body’s
prayers left to mold and rot away.

III. Paul Celan Answers

We are not taught to walk or speak,
neither drink the Black milk of daybreak.
There is a divination wrought in our bones,
it is not the only dying thing entrusted to us.


death_fugue_ian_khadan_ftr1Ian Khadan is a curator of poetry events at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, including the celebrated Urbana Poetry Slam series. Go to www.iankhadan.com to find out more about him.

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