The Sayable


Es wird etwas sein, spater,
das fullt sich mit dir
und hebt sich
an einen Mund

—Paul Celan, Zeitgehöft

There will be something, later,
which fills itself with you
and raises itself
out of a mouth,

—Paul Celan, Time Farm


Out of mouths came a hole in the map
           and many songs were sung
    in hope that they could mend it.
        The songs were sung slowly, the flags and
            the old gray banners were still.
  The bricks were stained. The streets led
              off into the distance.
       A woman went by herself to the statue
                      near the sea and knelt as
           she silently prayed to the silence.

The tread of a requiem has strewn the silent prayers
                       in a perfect circle.
           The circle stretches and stretches
                 and signals a target—
                         a city built to keep a secret.
               Its quiet carries, then it
                       falls through the streets
                             and is buried.
         The ground is too tired of heaven to listen.

A single circle is sketched on the surface
          and the vertebrae of nations stick up through it.
               Open the hole up in the map.
                     Open the hole up and let
             the mute witness peer
                        through the hole to see
                    the photographs of horrors
                hidden in a museum.
       The horrors become visible, but
          the visible is not spoken.

The visible is not sayable, but
                the sayable joins itself
                       with the visible.
                The sayable tears itself away.
                                             It mourns.
                The sayable is broken, beaten, emptied.
                 The sayable travels with the mouth,
                                    it travels and investigates
  the temperature of ways met
                      and the grid on its tongue suggests
                                    it is moving off towards
                           some design on the surface, and then
                                 deeper, beneath. It is
                               progressing, a single circle
                                   stretched painstakingly.
                      Its heat raises the word as bread.


Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (Word Tech, 2009) and The Century of Travel (Word Tech, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup, and he is the vice president and events coordinator of the Sacramento Poetry Center.