Last night

Last night
as I was walking down a dark side street
around the corner
my shadow lay down
in my arms

This weary garment
wanted to be carried,
and the colour nought appealed to me:
You are beyond the pale!

ging ich eine dunkle Nebenstraße
um die Ecke
Da legte sich mein Schatten
in meinen Arm
Dieses ermüdete Kleidungsstück
wollte getragen werden
und die Farbe Nichts sprach mich an:
Du bist jenseits!


This is so so typical of Nelly Sachs – so brief, such simple words, a beautiful metaphor, and so much ambiguity!

wollte getragen werden” – This sounds like a tired child wanting to be carried, or a worn-out garment wanting to be worn. Which?

die Farbe Nichts” – what colour is nothing?

sprach mich an” – spoke to me, addressed me; or attracted me? “It appealed to me” is equally ambiguous in English.

Du bist jenseits!” – you are beyond … what? On the other side, the hereafter? At any rate, past the point of no return. “beyond the pale” is not quite the same, but suggests more than the obvious.


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