If Someone Comes

If someone comes
from far away
with a language that
maybe stifles sounds
with a mare’s whinnying
the cheeping
of blackbird nestlings
even a screeching saw
cutting proximity to pieces –
If someone comes
from far away
cringing like a dog
maybe like a rat
in the wintertime –
wrap him up warm
he might well have
fire under the soles of his feet
(he may have been riding
on a meteor)
don’t scold him
if your carpet screams through its holes –

A stranger always carries
his home in his arms
like an orphan
and maybe
all he is looking for
is a grave
to bury it.


Bolide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kommt einer
von ferne
mit einer Sprache
die vielleicht die Laute
mit dem Wiehern der Stute
dem Piepen
junger Schwarzamseln
auch wie eine knirschende Säge
die alle Nähe zerschneidet

Kommt einer
von ferne
mit Bewegungen des Hundes
vielleicht der Ratte
und es ist Winter
so kleide ihn warm
kann auch sein
er hat Feuer unter den Sohlen
(vielleicht ritt er
auf einem Meteor)
so schilt ihn nicht
falls dein Teppich durchlöchert schreit –

Ein Fremder hat immer
seine Heimat im Arm
wie eine Waise
für die er vielleicht nichts
als ein Grab sucht.


6 thoughts on “If Someone Comes

  1. Response to If Someone Comes
    This poem relates to the Holocaust, and it talks about people who escaped or who need help. This poem is describing how people in the Holocaust were dying and needed shelter and protection from the Nazis. They were dying, and they would come up to people’s houses wailing or pleading for help. They may be “a screeching saw” or “a rat in the wintertime”, but people must see past their appearance and see the common theme…they need help. At the end of the poem, it’s talking about “a stranger always carries his home in his arms like an orphan and maybe all he is looking for is a grave to bury it”. In other words, a stranger always carries memories of his past and carries them with home from place to place, and maybe, they just want a peaceful place settle down.

  2. To me this poem represents hope. According to the OED, Hope is an expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation. The poem represents the hope and desire of someone coming to save them. “Them” is Nelly Sachs and the other victims of the Holocaust. It is interesting to me that the poem is titled If Someone Comes, and the poem isn’t about whether or not someone is coming, but who. It questions if the person who comes will save them or not. It questions what language they will speak, which implies that they are French, German, American, etc.
    I read a lot of the poems by Nelly Sachs before I came upon this poem. This poem stuck out to me like a sore thumb. The other poems by Nelly Sachs all seemed so certain and clear. This poem is different because it shows uncertainty. It questions, it asks, and it wonders. It leaves the reader wondering… Did they come? Were they all that was hoped/expected? And a lot of more questions.
    This poem may be about something completely different. The “someone” could be a metaphor for something else, like peace. Nelly Sachs could be wondering if peace will ever come. She could be asking if her nightmare will ever end.
    I like the simple, clean format. The format really contrasts against the messy, chaotic Holocaust. It is amazing that a poem like this could come from or be about something like the Holocaust.
    At the beginning of the poem she talks about someone coming with a language that sounds like animals. This means that it would sound a lot different to her because it is a different language than she speaks. The last stanza of the poem talks about how a stranger always carries his home in his arms like an orphan, and possibly looking to bury it. I’m not really sure what this means, but I think it has something to do with burying the past and putting the past behind you. Orphans are people that don’t have parents, so orphans usually live in an orphanage and don’t have very many belongings. If a stranger were to carry his home in his arms like an orphan, who doesn’t really have a home, then what is he carrying? Is the “home” a metaphor for something? And why would you want to bury it? There is a lot of uncertainty in this poem, which makes it very interesting to read.

  3. I have read a lot of poems by Nelly Sachs. This one has been my favorite. It reminds me of welcoming and hope, but also sadness and loss. Where she says “If someone comes from far away…wrap him up warm he might well have fire under the soles of his feet” she is telling us to be kind and take a stranger into our home or our hearts to help them, for they might be hurt or sad. Nelly Sachs tells us that even if their language is strange, or annoying, or if they are hurt and scared, you should be kind and welcoming and take them in and help them.
    She says “A stranger always carries his home in his arms like an orphan and maybe all he is looking for is a grave to bury it”. What does she mean when she says this? The meaning of orphan is ‘one deprived of some protection or advantage’. In this case the orphan is deprived of a home and this stranger is in a new and unfamiliar place. The meaning of stranger is ‘someone who is in a new and unfamiliar place’. In 2014 a normal reaction a stranger knocking on your door would be hiding and hoping they went away, but we don’t know what they’ve been through or what’s happened to them.
    Nelly Sachs uses the animal’s dog and rat in her poem when she says “cringing like a dog or maybe like a rat”. The negative symbolism of a dog is envy, scavenger, flatter, fury, war, greed, pitiless, bragging, and folly and they were hated at the end of the bible. Rats are commonly hated animals now, and they were hated long ago too, they were and are thought of as dirty and selfish animals and they are often kicked and hurt and killed with rat poison. Dogs are also often kicked and there is an expression “sad/lost puppy”. These animals can symbolize being sad and lost and hurt, like Nelly Sachs’ stranger.

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