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About this Poem 

"As I wrote this poem, I was thinking, or trying to think, about wars, especially the horrors of our recent wars, and about individual and collective responsibility. But the whole time I was also thinking about Paul Celan’s work--that I don't understand it at all, that I love it, that loving it feels wrong--and about individual and collective responsibility."
--Shane McCrae

The Best Thing Anyone Ever Said About Paul Celan

Today you will the     say the any ever

best thing any ever anyone

Said about Paul Celan

The world is if it isn’t     does it matter isn’t



waiting     or it might be might as well

Be if it knew     and some

People for some     people the wait is mostly it’s

a world in which the fact of Paul Celan



was and is always will have been and be

A fact and necessary     living in such a world

is the far greater agony the wait is no

agony     not compared to living in that world it is



Absurd to say he wouldn’t Paul Celan would recognize it still

No person ever is naive

but populations are naive and always will be

even innocent



is the far greater agony

It is     / More like a toothache

the pain of the wait for some

More like a pain in the hole from which



You even now prepare yourself to speak

Copyright © 2013 by Shane McCrae. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 15, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Shane McCrae. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 15, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author of five books of poetry: In the Language of My Captor (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), The Animal Too Big to Kill (Persea Books, 2015), winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award; Forgiveness Forgiveness (Factory Hollow Press, 2014); Blood (Noemi Press, 2013); and Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011).

by this poet

poem

The shadow I had carried lightly has

Been forced upon me now and heavy since

Bulky since     now and since unwieldy as

A corpse the shadow I     was born from in

 

And to I     should have known I couldn’t being

As how it wasn’t me who lifted it

Not     all the way     from

2
poem

The man said I could see them if I wanted

He said     America would never be

A place where we could     live together not at

Least in my lifetime     but the damned don’t see

No     important differences     between the Ne-

gro and the White the damned     don’t see no bad

In

2
poem

A white man wouldn't less

He stripped me naked was

Whipping me know

I was a woman     got

A name just turn

It inside out

And I'm a man

How else I'm gonna know myself

When I am called




A white