ROBERT DESNOS (1900-1945) was one of the original Surrealists, famous for retrieving poems from a trance state, for his love poems to his wife Youki, and for his self-sacrifice in the French Resistance. He was captured and died of typhus a few days after the liberation of Theresienstadt concentration camp, having survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

I lived in those times. For a thousand years
I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted;
When all human decency was imprisoned,
I was free amongst the masked slaves.

I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the river, the earth, the sky,
Turning around me, keeping their balance
The seasons provided their birds and their honey.

You who live, what have you made of your luck?
Do you regret the time when I struggled?
Have you cultivated for the common harvest?
Have you enriched the town I lived in?

Living men, think nothing of me. I am dead.
Nothing survives of my spirit or my body.

1928 film “The Starfish” by Man Ray, featuring Alice “Kiki” Prin, Andre de la Riviere, and Robert Desnos

Terezina Concentration Camp, May 1945

I have dreamed so much of you,
Walked so often, talked so often with you,
Loved your shadow so much.
Nothing is left me of you.
Nothing is left of me but a shadow among shadows,
A being a hundred times more shadowy than a shadow,
A shadowy being who comes, and comes again, in your sunlit life.