Candle burning in the dark
like a crow with one white wing
ceiling fan turning
on its axis like a god.
The poet Paul Celan refused
to let his captors choose
his death. Decades after,
he lifted his one white wing
In the meantime, he made
southbright—claiming his mother
tongue back from his assassins,
birthing words not found in their dead-
ly lexicon—timestead, breathturn,
neversongs. Every breathcoin he spent
on wordcaves. Until unword.
A poet’s tongue is his oar, his scull
inside his skull, churning on its axis,
cutting loss like a river—
pulling deep, darker, guttural, to
resurface, rowing against the flow
to the ridgeline. With a mouth still
full of loss, he balanced there,
rivers on one side flowing north,
on the other flowing south,
as the past is on one side of now,
the future on the other,
both of them flowing away.
Note: Italicized words are translations of Celan’s neologisms.
Of the Eleven Faces of Mercy I Know Six—
the mercy of a hard rain after disappointment,
the mercy of the fog of forgetfulness estranging
a man—my father—from his lifetime of rages,
the mercy of a thousand fingers of water relieving—
for a moment—the body of its incessant weight.
All the faces of mercy I know begin
or end in water. Of those I don’t know
one could be of the desert—waterless,
roofless—how would I know. And
not knowing all the faces of mercy
is one of the faces of mercy.
Jessica Goodfellow’s poetry books are Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala (2015), and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (2014). A former writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve, she’s had poems in The Southern Review, Scientific American, Verse Daily, Motionpoems, and Best American Poetry 2018.