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About this Poem 

"I wrote this poem in summer within earshot of the sea. What Celan said about language in extremity has always haunted me. I was also thinking how we have no words for the act of giving birth. It was important to me that the poet’s coat should be green."
—Meena Alexander

Night Theater

Meena Alexander, 1951

Snails circle
A shed where a child was born.

She bled into straw—
Who can write this?

Under Arcturus,
Rubble of light:

We have no words
For what is happening—

Still language endures
Celan said

As he stood in a torn
Green coat

Shivering a little,
In a night theater, in Bremen.

Copyright © 2012 by Meena Alexander. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on December 14, 2012. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Meena Alexander

Meena Alexander

Meena Alexander was born in Allahabad, India in 1951. She was raised

by this poet

June already, it's your birth month,
nine months since the towers fell.
I set olive twigs in my hair
torn from a tree in Central Park,
I ride a painted horse, its mane a sullen wonder.
You are behind me on a lilting mare.
You whisper--What of happiness?
Dukham, Federico. Smoke fills my eyes.
Young, I was
I was young when you came to me. 
Each thing rings its turn, 
you sang in my ear, a slip of a thing 
dressed like a convent girl--
white socks, shoes, 
dark blue pinafore, white blouse.

A pencil box in hand: girl, book, tree-- 
those were the words you gave me. 
Girl was penne, hair drawn back,