A Selection of Petőfi Sándor’s Verse, translated by Arlo Voorhees

Why are you Still Singing Gentle Bards? (Mit Daltoltok Még ti, Jámbor Költők)

Why are you still singing gentle bards,
in times like these what good is the song?
The world can hardly hear your words,
the noise of war drones on and on.

Lay down your lute, wholesome boys,
your beautiful music falls too flat.
Even the lark’s melodious voice
disappears amid thunderous claps.

Or maybe not. Birds don’t really care
if down here they are even heard?
In the vast blueness of their air,
the lark sings for itself and god.

When sorrow or joy touches our hearts
songs fly from us so naturally,
and sail on the waves of a steady wind
like the tattered leaves of a rosewood tree.

So let us sing lads, like we used to,
but even louder, so our lutes will vie
with the clamor of a disturbed earth,
and add a note or two to the clearing sky.

Half the world in rubble … a bleak vision
and though it troubles our hearts and heads
let our souls descend on these harsh ruins,
and our songs like ivy gently spread.

 

The Four-Ox Cart (A Négyökrös Szekér)

This would not happen in Budapest.
There, such romance does not exist.
A sterling company of gentlemen
climbed in a cart, sat down and left;
They left in a cart drawn by four oxen.
In pairs the oxen guided the cart,
and dragging the cart over the dusty road,
the four oxen calmly marched and marched.

A clear night it was. The waning moon
meandered through a cloudy maze
like a sad-eyed widow searching
the cemetery for her husband’s grave.
The breeze, an ancient trader, peddled
sweet perfume from a passing marsh.
And dragging the cart over the dusty road,
the four oxen calmly marched and marched.

I myself was sitting in this company,
sitting beside a girl named Elsie;
while the other gentlemen of our company
were singing aloud or shooting the breeze,
lost in dreams I called out to Elsie,
“Can’t we claim for ourselves a shining star?”
And dragging the cart over the dusty road,
the four oxen calmly marched and marched.

“Can’t we claim for ourselves a shining star?”
I repeated to Elsie my dreamy wish
“If fate should send us separate ways
this star will recall our happiness
and guide us back through memory.”
So we claimed for ourselves a shining star.
And dragging the cart over the dusty road,
the four oxen calmly marched and marched.

 

My Birthplace (Szülőföldemen)

I was born here on the open range
amid the beauty of the sprawling plain
born in this town that seems to cry
out for my nurse and her lullabies
and now I hear her voice so softly chant
“Lady-bird, lady-bird fly from my hand.”

Simply a boy when I left this land,
I’ve returned today as a grown-up man;
yes, twenty years have promptly followed,
loaded down with joy and sorrow.
Twenty years, O how swiftly it ran!
“Lady-bird, lady-bird fly from my hand.”

Where have you gone my former friends?
If just one of you would meet me again,
and sit down beside me, my old chum,
until I forget the man I’ve become.
For twenty-five years I’ve shouldered demands…
“Lady-bird, lady-bird fly from my hand.”

Like a restless bird among the branches
from place to place my mind advances;
rummaging through my childhood hours
like a honeybee in a field of flowers
it finds my old haunts and gracefully lands.
“Lady-bird, lady-bird, fly from my hand.”

Again, I’m a child, a child born anew,
riding my stick-horse and playing a flute;
Yes upon my horse, I recklessly ride,
only resting to drink at the riverside.
Giddy up my pony, for an outlaw I am!
“Lady-bird, lady-bird, fly from my hand.”

As the evening bells shake their spire,
both horse and horseman grown so tired,
I stumble home to the lap of my nurse,
her lips trembling with gentle verse,
and listening, I slip under her command.
“Lady-bird, lady-bird, fly from my hand.”

 

Mr. Paul Pato (Pató Pál úr)

Like a cursed prince cast out
far from the fairy tale seas,
Mr. Paul Pato sits at home
by himself in habitual misery.
How different his life might be
if he could meet a promising girl!
But Mr. Paul Pato interjects,
“I have all the time in the world.”

The house is close to collapsing
and littered with flakes of plaster;
the wind takes a piece of the roof
and scatters it Godknowswhere.
He should fix it now, for soon the sky
will be gazing through the ceiling boards.
But Mr. Paul Pato interjects,
“I have all the time in the world.”

Instead of the harvest’s usual yield,
poppies fill the furrowed earth—
all different kinds in every field
while the garden lies deserted.
How odd they seem, these idle workers,
how useless the plots no longer plowed!
But Mr. Paul Pato interjects,
“I have all the time in the world.”

The cloak too, and even the trousers—
old and tattered, and only useful for
(if necessity called for it)
a replacement screen for the door!
You simply need to call the tailor;
The cloth’s already ordered.
But Mr. Paul Pato interjects,
“I have all the time in the world.”

His life, it seems, is hardly lived;
though his forefathers left him
with quite a lot, alone he sits
endowed with next to nothing;
But Mr. Paul Pato is not to blame,
for Hungarians are bound to uphold
their ancestors’ favored  phrase,
“I have all the time in the world.”

 

The Cutting-Down (A LETARLOTT…)

On the barren yellow countryside
misty Autumn sadly sits,
and sad on my heart, my memory
sits upon that Autumn mist.

The shining face of the sun returns
and suddenly the mist departs;
my girl, I see your smiling face,
the light bears down upon my heart.

Don’t play the sun’s part my girl,
the sun that sends away the mist,
so clearly I can see the world,
and all things fade that live in it.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

A wine cellar rat and former Fulbright fellow in Hungary, Arlo Voorhees grew up on a dairy farm in central Massachusetts and now resides in Portland, Oregon. He edits the poetry in the print version of Pilvax.

The Opposition Party: a short story by Rick Stinson

Last night I brought my Marantz PMD660 to what I thought was going to be a táncház packed with ecstatic young people but was instead a grim söröző somewhere in the twelfth district with half the lights burned out, full of balding men with chapped faces seething over half liters of pale, warm beer. The Hutsul band I’d gone to document had cancelled, or maybe never showed up. Fucking Hutsuls. It was possible that I’d gotten the address wrong. Communication with the natives was difficult. I ordered a drink: “Egy korsó, keret szepan, bácsi”—the barmaid looked at me like I was a grotesque sea-creature loosed from the depths. So I pointed at a bottle of alcohol until a drink was poured, and drank.

This morning, my head pulsed while Jens, the supercilious Belgian department head, walked into my office, took a pen from my desk, and flatly informed me that the research budget I’d applied for hadn’t been approved by the board. In light of this, he was going to reassign the funds to that assistant prof from somewhere in Africa where people cut off each other’s hands, who is writing a supposedly soon-to-be-bestselling monograph about Afrofunk and genocide that has the marketing department, i.e. the mousy woman who smells like stale hamburgers and wears purple nail polish, all aflutter. And my wife called my office phone from her computer in California to inform me that she’s having difficulty coding her rolfing website. Our children howled in the background.  We talked about whether it made sense for me to stay in Hungary any longer. The answer to that was, if the money is there, maybe. But the money isn’t there.

After I hung up, I rubbed my temples and tried to ignore the histrionic students loitering just outside my office. They were discussing Hungary’s recent elections. You’d think they were negotiating START-3.

Just as I stood up to close the door, a tall, chubby man wandered into view, looking at a piece of paper with my office number written on it.

“You are the Professor Molnar?”

“That’s me.”

“Good afternoon, I am Mátyas, I am working in government. Forgive me, but we could not find your phone number in the CEU directory, and Parliament is close so I make a visit.”

“You guys must be pleased with the election results,” I said, and he smiled.

I didn’t have any coffee or water to offer him, and I was too shy to attempt speaking in Hungarian. Mátyas explained that his superiors had tasked him with arranging a large public concert that would both celebrate Hungary’s new direction and be a tribute to its ethnic Transylvanian population, who were effectively stranded over the border in Romania. (They would pay tribute to Székelys and Csangós as well, but really, Transylvania was going to be the focus.) It was my good fortune that all of the Hungarian folk music experts he’d tracked down proved to be politically problematic. So he’d been forced to ask me—a foreigner—to help him curate it.

I was flattered. This is my calling, and I was eager to show off my knowledge. All thoughts of research grants evaporated. This was real. This was happening.

Things moved fast. Mátyas sat across from me, doughy and earnest, his scalp gleaming under the florescent lights of my CEU office. In short order, we came up with a name for the show:  “Hungarian Land, Hungarian Rule: The Transylvanian Buena Vista Social Club.” Naturally, it would consist of traditional songs and take place at the Művészetek Palotája, or “Palace of Art and Music” in Budapest. Like a lot of foreigners, I called it MuPa, because that is just far easier to say.

“We will film for live television, of course,” Mátyas said.

“Excellent. Before any contracts are signed, we need to discuss what my official title is going to be for this.  Co-Producer? We’ll also need to discuss rights.”

“OK, yes.”

“And I’ll send you my bio.”

“Your surname Molnar—your family is Hungarian?”

“Yes. My great grandparents came over and settled in California. Los Angeles.”

“Then you must understand how important this is for us. It is very important that it is a good show.  It is important that there are many musicians, and must be from the Transylvania. The Transylvania is Hungary—it does not belong to Romania.” He emphasized this final statement by tapping on my desk, once, forcefully.

“Sure.”

“Romania is a shit country. After Trianon, then Romania is having the Transylvania. This is not correct. They are still speaking Hungarian overall.”

“Mátyas, I should tell you that I’m fundamentally apolitical—I’m interested in culture, not so much elections and EU guidelines about farmland and all that. But I’d love to help. I know a lot of prominent musicologists, both here and abroad.” I pushed around some manila folders around on my desk.

“Anyone prominent may be an asset.”

We decided that, not only would the musicians be from Transylvania (with a few from deeper into Romania), none of them would ever leave the stage. We’d just keep adding bands so the music became increasingly triumphant. The repertoire we’d worked out consisted entirely of standard folks songs, eliminating the need for rehearsals (and, budget-wise, the need to rent a rehearsal space for several dozen people).

“Also, just to be clear, I may work this concert into the upcoming monograph I’m writing for Central European University Press,” I said.

“If you must, yes, OK. But you should consider, that this Central European University is run by individuals with loyalties to foreign countries; and it is funded by Soros, a globalist.”  The students were still talking in the hall, so I got up and closed the door.

“I’m just a visiting adjunct from UCLA, I’m cool. You don’t have to worry about me. And I’m not getting any funding from CEU anyway.”

“It is also a matter of concern for us, your family background. Many patriotic Hungarians are living outside the Hungary, but there are also many connected to Kun Belá and Kádár.”

“My family came over early.”

“Ah?”

“Before the war. None were government apparatchiks or anything like that . . . I’m the first person in my family to sit behind a desk. Before me, all of the Molnar men have been equestrians. My great-grandfather moved to California from Hungary and worked as a farrier on a ranch in the Bay Area. My grandfather followed in his footsteps, and became a breeder. My father is a veterinarian. I studied veterinary science initially, but when I got sick of reading up on equine nutrition I changed my major to ethnomusicology. My father acted like I was turning my back on being a Hussar or something.  We’re estranged.”

“Yes, it is the same in my family,” Mátyas said. “My father did not want me to be involved in the politics, but I am.”

“That’s good. It’s better to do things you care about.”

“And now you are not becoming a Huszár, but you are writing a book?”

“Yes. I’m working on something with a broader appeal than my previous book, which was also about Hungary.” I handed him the copy of A Wandering Meal that I kept on my desk. Mátyas flipped through the book absently as we continued to talk.

Over the next hour, we finished pinning down logistics, exchanged email addresses, and finally, shook hands warmly.

“You could help us,” he said. Hungarian inflection is different than English, and all the accent is front-loaded in the sentence. For a moment I thought he was admonishing me, but then I just realized it was an invitation to collaborate.

Finding good collaborators can be difficult, but I had a positive feeling about this. It was obvious that Mátyas was a man with good intentions and (evidently) a large appetite, and we was the only person I’d met this year who was, like me, actually optimistic about Hungary’s future. I felt a kinship with him—when I was his age, I’d spent my days stuffing envelopes for nonprofits and writing grant applications; by night I passionately held forth on music in the living rooms and kitchens of my friends, all of us holding lime-green tallboys of Ballantines from the bodega down the street. The world was ours for the taking.

Something had gone terribly wrong in my life. I thought that getting away from my family would ignite my creativity, but I was just depressed. I was lecturing and doing fieldwork in a city that I didn’t fully understand. I’d missed both of my sons’ birthdays this year, and for what? I was exhausted, wrestling with a monograph that was taking shape too slowly. I wasn’t making enough connections with real Hungarians, like the one that just left my ersatz office. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that my office may recently have been a storage closet. There aren’t even any electrical outlets in here.

 * * *

The Művészetek Palotája had been built through the efforts of the former opposition party. Unlike the dull prefab block housing built by the Communists, MuPa was a shining vision of pink and purple florescence. Its pulsating neon façade was constructed to look like the prow of a ship—an ark nosing into a reflecting pool strewn with Roman columns and assorted torches. Statues of curvaceous women stuck out from the front of the building, each holding a musical instrument, or pallet and brush, or sculpting tool. It was a ballsy, blindingly Neo-Classical edifice. I tipped the cab driver generously and made my way to soundcheck.

The stage manager, harried, wearing a red turtleneck and dangling earrings, stood in the doorway talking into a headset mic. Holding a clipboard, she gestured frantically at her watch and shrieked; she may have discerned that I’d had a half-dozen drinks to calm my nerves before coming over. I greeted her warmly, kissing each of her blushing cheeks. I felt loose.

Frank was waiting for me in the green room, ignoring the cheese plate in favor of a piece of oily fried dough slathered in sour cream. A flattened paper bag darkened with grease lay on the table next to him. I’d prepared myself for the moment; I knew it would come. Frank was grinning at me, oblivious.

Frank and I have a history. We’d met in Budapest back when Hungary was still a member of the Warsaw Pact. As American fiddle players interested in Transylvanian folk music, we hated each other instantly. We’ve only grown further apart over time. He is a depressed alcoholic living in Budapest’s eighth district. Although I knew he would be playing the show—he was too entrenched in this scene to effectively exclude—his presence was still unnerving.

I’ve been aware of Frank’s work as an archivist over the years, which more or less amounts to boxes of poorly labeled cassette tapes. My approach to ethnomusicology is different than his: I take myself seriously, but I’m not interested in keeping my findings locked away in indecipherable, print-on-demand tomes sprinkled in a handful of university  bookstores; I want to make something fun and alive, something that people enjoy. I’m a Romantic above all, and while I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always “on the money,” my mission is a noble one, I’d like to think. I show people culture. I show them human emotion. I show them the truth. Even when I was a child, I knew that I wouldn’t be a white-collar drone when I grew up—or a drunk, sitting hopelessly on a couch with a pile of half-read books in front of me. I am not a spectator; I am a participant.

Frank and I shook hands and exchanged some small talk. He asked after my wife and kids, and told a story about meeting some girl at a conference in Wrocław.

“It’s good to see you, Frank,” I said.

“I’m really goddamn excited about this show!” he hollered in my face.

“Yes, this will be something.”

“Oh hell yeah! If it weren’t for this, these guys would never be in the same room together.  This is gonna be interesting. And it pays all right.”

“They’re used to playing smaller venues I guess,” I said.

“Sure, there’s that.  But also, most of these guys despise each other. They’re from different regions, rival families . . . Before you got here, I was trying to get everyone to sound check together but they refused. Eight different bandleaders and each band plays in a totally different regional style. Hell, they play in different time signatures.”

“We’re trying to showcase different regional styles so that’s good.” My eyes scanned the room. No help there.

“Well, you’re going to have several dozen violins onstage, none of which are going to be tuned together. Everyone has lousy violins, too. These guys don’t have any money—you and I are probably the only people in the room who actually have bank accounts. So even if they were tuned . . . you know what I’m saying. It’s gonna be a mess. But fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke, right?”

I didn’t like to concede the point, but the truth is that, in the lead-up to the show, two viola players got in a fight. A singer from Kolosvár vomited on the cheese table and passed out.  (We pushed him to the corner of the green room and covered him with a spare tablecloth.)  One of the few well-known musicians, Maestru Doru, showed up without an instrument—he’d sold his vioara cu goarnă to a German music student paying Euros.Then there was another fight—this time a knife was involved—and everyone was screaming. Someone threw a full bottle of Fanta. I was cornered by three thuggish violinists who, I’m told, were calling me a “foreign faggot.” They were drunk and I was shoved into the wall. Then security came in and split everyone up into different rooms.

A journalist was there from the local free weekly to interview us. Frank did most of the talking; at times they seemed to be arguing. I talked about my previous book, A Wandering Meal, which investigates secret Catholic prayer groups that may have existed under Communism and collects traditional Hungarian recipes.

I maintained a gracious demeanor, even though Frank kept interrupting me. My head began to pulse.  I fished an aspirin out of my toiletries pouch. The pouch also contained a first aid kit, potable water tablets, compass, a Swiss army knife, razor, disposable cell phone, radiation dosimeter, tiny pencil and notebook, fishing hook and tackle, synthetic fish bait, red and orange marble that my grandfather gave me when I was small, iodine tablets, mosquito repellent, Chiclets, and finally, a small but very powerful flashlight that shines a bright blue beam.

 * * *

It is hard to describe the sounds that were produced on that stage. I’d like to think they were honest. And anyway, at its root, all harmony is facile at best. Think back to the territory encompassed by Hungary during the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—exactly how many cultures, with different languages and customs, lived together at that time? The point wasn’t that their coexistence was necessarily harmonious; it was that they all were all united.

The only thing that truly bothered me about the show was Frank’s refusal to take things seriously. He kept yelling jokes in the ear of the ancient Csango peasant standing next to him, sawing away at his violin, causing the man to laugh this weird barking laugh that I prayed the microphones didn’t pick up. The Csango’s wife thumped on this weird single-stringed cello-looking thing with a stick. The Csango was wearing a ratty fur hat with a brim. He and Frank openly drank nips of pálinka onstage. By contrast, the people in the crowd—largely consisting of members of the former opposition party—were soberly dressed in fine eveningwear, solemn and reserved as they beheld their newfound power, and their obligation to their country.

* * *

I sat in the green room after the show, watching Frank talk to the other musicians in Hungarian. I was furious with him, but if he noticed he said nothing. The old Csango shook hands with me before wandering off. He carried his violin in a Spar shopping bag.

I needed to reset my life. I was too isolated from everyone. The problem is that no matter where I go, there I am. My colleagues at CEU barely registered my arrival, never mind my impending departure. At night I went to bars in the seventh district with the explicit agenda of making new friends, but more often than not found myself shithoused at the end of the night, throwing forints on the bar and laughing at how badly I was failing at everything, then staggering back home, terrified of the prostitutes who swarmed at me from doorways and side streets, wondering what I was doing with myself. I was profoundly alone. I had an apartment full of books that I didn’t feel like reading. I drank to excess. I hungered to connect with people—if nothing else, the nature of my work insisted on this. I was nearing the end of my time in Hungary with little work to really show for it. What would become of my career?

None of the musicians were interested in talking to me, and my attempts to praise them for their work were accepted with curt nods. I stood with a small plastic cup full of seltzer and shifted from foot to foot.

My awkwardness was dispelled when Mátyas appeared, car keys in hand. He came right up to me and shook my hand, praising the work. It seemed that everyone in the audience had loved it. He graciously offered to take me out for a night with his friends, who were going visit someone they knew out in the country.

I put my violin in his trunk. Two of his friends, who had been drinking in the parking lot, piled into the car with us and cracked open fresh beers. I took one eagerly. It was warm.  The game was afoot.

“Nice car,” I said.

“It is a Romanian piece of shit.”

There was a bumper sticker on his car showing an outline of Hungary’s former borders, with runic writing underneath. We shot out into the night, the wheels of the Dacia sedan squealing as Mátyas yanked it around corners. Unknown villages passed by in the darkness. Someone produced a repurposed plastic Fanta bottle filled with homemade pálinka. I drank each time it was passed to me, trying not to cough.

We eventually pulled up in front of a sprawling country house. The headlights shone on a large metal washtub in the front yard. It was full of blood. Mátyas informed me that it was the time of year when they slaughtered a pig and made it into sausages. The pig’s head and other parts were piled in a plastic bucket, which emitted a rich, coppery odor. A decrepit orange Lada was up on blocks in the front yard, and the grass underneath was dead.

It was dark inside the house, and what I believe were small children scampered about in the shadows, shrieking wordlessly at each other. Racks and racks of deer antlers hung from an overhead beam. Dry sausages were arranged in rows on the kitchen table; I suppose they were curing. A very old woman sat in front of an electric stove, holding a wooden spoon. She put an arm around Mátyas and the two of them had a rapid, hushed conversation. Mátyas’ friends stood on either side of me, sweating slightly in the warmth of the house. The one of my left had produced a small bag of Cheetos and was upending it into his mouth.

Mátyas led me through one room after another, and then we were in a dining room. A long table covered by a white tablecloth embroidered with a red pattern dominated the room.  There were platters of sausages and loaves of bread. Maybe a dozen people were sitting there.  I nodded to everyone and sat down. At my end of the table sat Mátyas and his two friends, who all shared a similar, puffy, close-cropped look. They were wearing black slacks, white shirts, and black vests. We sat near a hulking, bearded patriarch, a pretty blond woman with red nails, a man with an acne-ridden face, a man who squinted through glasses perched on a small nub of a nose below which hung a wispy white moustache, and the old woman, who sat at the place of honor at the center of the table. She spoke in a gravelly, commanding voice, directing those at the table to pass the food around.  Soon my plate was loaded with meat and a glass of wine was pushed my way.

All conversation ceased for a moment. I remember that I paused for a second, and then took a sip of the wine. Once I did, everyone starting laughing and singing, and I realized that we were fantastically drunk. Mátyas produced a stereo from another room. At some point, we all linked hands and began whirling around the table. My feet dragged through the steps of the dance. The thick, sweaty hands of Mátyas’ friends clutched my own.

Over dinner, Mátyas explained that they couldn’t trust the former opposition party any more than the socialists—too many foreign allies. Instead, the answer lay in a new political group of concerned Hungarian citizens forming rural militias. These would extend beyond the borders of Hungary, to every place where ethnic Hungarians lived. They told me about global economic conspiracies that loomed over Hungary, pressing it downwards, occult manipulations of the world economy by malevolent foreigners; captivated by the rustic setting, I let my mind wander as they talked, trying to imagine what this land was like hundreds of years ago, when the villagers needed to band together against invaders poisoning their wells and stealing their children. When Hussars riding bareback would feign retreat and, as they galloped away, twist around to fire arrows backwards at their pursuers. When the land was ruled by a succession of kings, and the wealth of the nation was passed from father to son. I was emotional, furious at the terrible suffering Hungary had experienced throughout the ages, and how my work—as impassioned as it was—only barely touched on this. I tried to explain some of this, but I was drunk and it was coming out wrong.

Mátyas clapped me on the shoulder and told me that they wanted me to help them. Tears were in my eyes as I held my arms out to embrace them, one after another. “Does your grandmother, or whoever she is, have any recipes for me?” I asked.

Mátyas pulled me back into the car, and his friends piled in after. He was making calls on his ancient, brick-like cell phone. The radio was incomprehensible. We stopped to take a piss in a cemetery.  We tumbled out of the car and ran howling amidst the graves. We took up the rocks that had been left on top of all the tombstones and began throwing them at each other, cackling. Two more carloads of young men arrived. They were all dressed identically, and I gave up on telling them apart. I was pointed out as I raced around the grounds, bucking and snorting, eventually capering around on all fours and squealing to comic effect. Wet leaves were sticking to me. We all began pushing over tombstones.

There was a large shopping bag full of loose cans of beer in the back of the car. I began trying to tell everyone about the relationship between early Transylvanian Csango music and Austrian court dances, but then one of the guys in the back seat leaned forward and handed me a pamphlet with helmeted men riding horses on the front. I pretended to read it, but I really could only make out the odd word. We drove further into the countryside. The car didn’t have a clock, and my cell phone didn’t work in Hungary, and I had no idea how late it was or how much time was passing. The beer began to run low. We threw the empty cans out of the window, one after another, and took stock of what was left: five beers. Perfect. Mátyas kept taking periodic phone calls, and was apparently coordinating something. Someone produced an empty jerrycan. It was old, metal, and black—flat, with an X indented in the side. The heat was on full-blast, and my hands still smelled like pork from all the sausage I’d eaten. We pulled over so one of Mátyas’ friends could siphon some gas out of a parked car, and then we drove onwards. The gas sloshed around in the jerrycan, which I somehow ended up holding. Its weight on my lap was comforting.

We entered a village, and drove with our lights out to a rundown neighborhood. All of the businesses were shuttered. Mátyas cut the engine, and the faint sound of hip hop coming from a nearby home was audible. The four of us got out of the car, and I nearly bumped into some women in headscarves and long skirts hurrying by. They cast a terrified glance at us and Mátyas shouted something at them. The world reeled as I stepped up on the sidewalk, and I grabbed onto light post to keep from falling over. The three cars in our caravan were parked haphazardly on the sidewalk. The night was clear with a light breeze, I smelled freshly-mown hay. Maybe animal shit. Mátyas’ friends gathered around me.  There were about a dozen of us, all told. No one questioned my presence, and I smiled at the thought that, of course, I am an ethnic Hungarian and I belonged here. They had a quick pow-wow, and then the group split in two—one half stayed with us, the rest marched purposefully down the street, carrying axes and crowbars.

I was holding two open cans of beer, and I took a pull from the one in my dominant hand. Mátyas smiled at me, and punched me lightly on the arm. We laughed. He unscrewed the cap of the jerrycan and began sloshing gas on the exterior wall of a weathered house with horse tied up out front. The proper place for a horse is in a stable, where its coat is brushed and its hooves trimmed, and it has enough water and hay. I wrote “Horses need to be cared for” on the inside of my wrist in ballpoint pen.

“These people, they are criminals and murderers,” Mátyas said to me. I untied the horse and began petting its head, but it instinctively wandered away from the heat.

Since no one was talking to me, I got back into the car and made myself comfortable.  Soon Mátyas came back, and we drove away. When I was young, my favorite thing to do was to fall asleep in the back seat while my father was drove us home from a party. I’d listen to my parents talk in low voices, peaceful and happy, and luxuriating under the warmth of the blanket they kept in the car to throw over me. I’d wake up in my bed at home to the sound of my father singing along to the radio on our kitchen counter, old songs that I didn’t know the words to, shimmering and reverbed.

 * * *

 When I woke up, I was lying in on a bench in a park in Budapest. My toiletries pouch was missing; I found it discarded in a trashcan at the end of the block, emptied of its contents.  All of my credit cards and identification had been taken; my hangover was indescribable.  I was completely unharmed. I was safe.

I walked all the way to the American embassy, and a number of phone calls (including one to Frank) established my identity for them. I cancelled my credit cards and filled out the paperwork for a new US passport.

My remaining time at CEU was uneventful. I worked quietly on my new monograph, which is still not quite finished. Mátyas promised to contact me soon for future projects, and I waited impatiently, eager to embark on a new life.

A few weeks after returning home I received a manila envelope in the mail from Frank. It contained a copy of the magazine that printed our interview and a note scribbled on the back of a takeout menu. The gist of the letter was that Frank was going to be on tour and might be coming through the US thanks to a grant from some Jewish organization. He was going to interview at some universities for a job, and he was going to give a talk at some cultural center: did I want to come see him or would I provide some sort of recommendation. It didn’t make any sense, of course. We were working at cross-purposes.

I paged though the magazine and read the interview, pleased. The magazine used a wonderful photograph of me to accompany the article:  I am sweating and jubilant, violin in hand. Behind me, the musicians are out of focus, blurred, clustered in little groups. I am grinning, my head thrown back, my face florid, spellbound. My eyes are locked on at something just past the cameraman.

————————————————————————————————————————-

A former Budapest resident, Rick Stinson is a Brooklyn-based fiction writer and Bennington College graduate. His work has appeared in Esopus magazine.

 

Verse Revisited

“Arrival at Santos” by Elizabeth Bishop

One of the things I’m enjoying about this return to reading poetry is the chance to linger. It’s not that I could never take my time with a poet before, but I think some of the urgency of graduate school – that unhealthy need to consume mass quantities of poems at all costs – rubbed off on me in my earlier stabs at non-university based appreciation. Read a poem. Read it again. Read it aloud. If it was really good, read it to somebody else or (later) send it off in an email. Then move on.

So a big reason I took up this project was to get the opportunity to spend a bit of time with each of the poets I (re-)encounter. And it’s been paying off so far because I’m really loving Elizabeth Bishop, and in some unexpected ways. It’s been more than fifteen years since I paid her any serious attention, and back then I was most definitely more impressed with her epiphany poems. Those like “In the Waiting Room”, where she describes some intimate situation in precise detail only to come to a startling or sometimes even profound conclusion by the end. I was drawn to them in part because younger me thought that’s what poetry was supposed to be about (or at least that’s what I remember younger me thinking). Also, I think, I preferred those poems because they tended to be the ones set in the snowy remote northeast – Worcester, Mass, or even further north in Nova Scotia.

I didn’t like the Brazil poems. They seemed too . . . foreign? Not in the sense that they described unfamiliar places, but because they seemed foreign to the poet, different somehow. Gone from most of them are those moments of clarity, those instances of precise understanding. Instead, the Brazil poems just seem to describe things. To be sure, they describe things (well, not just things, but places, people, animals, weather) with exquisite detail and Bishop’s usual propensity for startling shifts in rhyme and meter. But is that enough? At the time, for me, it wasn’t.

But lingering now, allowing myself to wallow in her descriptions, I see the poems differently. I get the imagism at play in them and I’m not only content to let that imagism do its work, I’m downright ecstatic about it – it’s like I’ve been encountering a new poet for the first time. Take this bit from “Arrival at Santos” in which she describes the boat that will carry her and her traveling companion from their freighter to the mainland:

            The tender is coming,
a strange and ancient craft, flying a strange and brilliant rag.
So that’s the flag. I never saw it before.
I somehow never thought of there being a flag . . .

Forget about the intricacies of the meter and rhyme for a moment. I just love the way she takes the briefest of moments to point out the Brazilian flag and comment on its appearance before moving on to describe the rest of her arrival. And even that arrival, with its “self-pitying mountains,” its “feeble pink” warehouses, its custom officers and bourbon is nothing more than a moment, a stage. The poet seems to learn nothing (except that, yes, Brazil does have a flag and its own coins), to come to no new profundities. Merely to arrive, pass through, and move on “to the interior,” where she’ll continue to explore the lush and vibrant colors, the compelling new meters, and the electricity all around her without ever feeling the need to explain to the likes of poetry feeders like me. Lovely.

- Aaron Hunter

Poetry: Thomas Ország-Land

Villon

Adapted from the Renaissance French of Francois Villon (b. 1431) & the Hungarian of György Faludy (1910-2006).

Villon the vagabond was one of Europe’s first modern poets. Faludy, a Jewish-Hungarian master, spent some of his best writing years in exile or political imprisonment. This poem about the massive Westward flow of abused stateless migrants that characterizes the 21st century is dedicated to The Exiled Writers Ink! organization of London.

 

 

STATELESS

I’ve proudly wrapped my dazzling sky around me
yet I have found one faithful friend: the fog.
In banquet halls I’ve heard my hunger howling.
By fires, I have endured the test of frost.
I am a prince of human kind: I’ve reached out
and to my thirsty lips, the mud has swelled –
My paths are marked by wilting wildflowers: even
the festive seasons wither from our breath.
I stare surprised in disbelief when genial
warm sunshine holds my frame in calm caress.
And thus across three continents I’ve traveled
and been despised and welcomed everywhere.

I’ve wrestled with the storms on shriveled wastelands.
My dress: a leaf that graced a bygone tree.
And nothing’s clearer to me than night’s fragrance
and nothing darker than high noontide’s blaze.
My rising sobs have burst in wary taverns
but in the graveyards I have laughed my fill,
and all I own are things I’ve long discarded
and thus I’ve come to value everything.
Upon my stubborn curls, the spell of autumn
collects its silver while, a child at heart,
I cross this freezing landscape never pausing,
and live despised and welcomed everywhere.

Triumphant stars erect their vast cathedral
above me, and dew calms my feet below
as I pursue my fleeing god in sorrow
and sense my world through every pore in joy.
I’ve rested on the peaks of many mountains.
I’ve sweltered with the captive quarry-slaves.
And at my cost, I’ve learned to shun the towers
of state and curse our rulers’ power games.
My share: the worst and best in every bargain,
and thus I’ve come to find an equal ease
in squalor and beneath the whitest pillars,
a guest despised and welcomed everywhere.

I have no state, no home – nor choice but freedom.
Between my legs, the playful wind alone
performs a merry duet with my arse-hole.
I wish that I could quell the foolish fears
of local folks, that they would see the person
I am, beyond my status, and receive
my gift of words I’ve brought to share with them.
The time may come when all my words will rhyme
and I will dip my pen in molten gold
…before I find a restful spot beneath
some wizened thicket, and remain forever
a voice: despised and welcomed, everywhere.

——————————————————————————————————–

THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND (b. 1938) is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent writing for global syndication from London and hs native Budapest. His poetry has been published by the BBC World Service, The London Magazine and The New York Times, his reviews and polemics by The Times Literary Supplement (London), Foreign Policy (Washington) and The Jerusalem Report. His next book will be The Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time (Smokestack, England, 2014).

 

Twins: A Short Story by Sándor Jászberényi

Twins

 We snaked our way through the hills. The grass sprouted in clumps along the incline, only from a distance did it all seem to blend together, the sand revealing itself in patches. It was eight in the morning, and a cool breeze blew off the desert, the juniper bushes shining with dew. Sheep grazed in the Canary grass, and we could hear the sound of the bells that the rams wore from their necks. After driving past abandoned, shot-up tanks and the desert itself, Libya’s green hills were a welcome sight.

“Do you think they will attack today?” I asked Hamid. He blinked as the sun hit his eyes. I rolled the window down and took two cigarettes from the pack. The air was already tepid, promising a sweltering noon. I lit both cigarettes and handed one to Hamid.

Insallah,” he said, and took a long drag. “If NATO gives the green light, then we attack.”

“It’s already been a week with no attack. They’re just taking potshots at each other.”

“True. You see, Gaddafi’s men have learned to be sneaky. They fly the same flags as us on their cars, so NATO can’t tell the difference. But we will attack when NATO gives the word that they took out their rocket launchers.

Mentioning the rocket launchers was enough for me to hear the scream of the Grado rockets in my head and the thundering noise of exploding shells. For two weeks now I had been listening for their sound on the Ajdabiya front. The advancing Gaddafi soldiers always attacked the lines of the rebels early in the morning, during prayer. They weren’t able to aim the grads precisely, and whenever they managed to hit, the destruction was massive.

“Nobody knows when the attack will be?”

“Allah Karim, Abu Abdel Hafiz! Only the transitional council knows. At least I hope somebody knows when this wretched offensive will be!”

I knew Hamid’s outburst wasn’t directed at me. His boy was stationed at Ajdabiya with a group of insurgents, and he would take part in the fight for Brega once the offensive began. Brega was a meat grinder. In a civil war with no end in sight, it had already changed hands four times.

We puffed our cigarettes in silence. I fixed my gaze on Hamid’s face. It was wrinkled with worry. He was just 50, but he appeared much older when the thought of his son crossed his mind. Then the wrinkles creased deeper across his face: because of their boys, fathers all over Libya were suddenly aging. Before the uprising, Hamid had been a doctor, but with his good English, he became a driver to foreign journalists during the conflict, along with serving under the transitional council. We had met in Benghazi, quite by accident, after the rocket attacks.

“I apologize that I can’t take you directly to Tobruk, Abu Abdel Hafiz,” he said, returning to a sort of calm. He had been calling me Abu Abdel Hafiz since I told him that I had named my son Hafiz. We had been sitting in his car when Gaddafi’s sharpshooters began to fire on us in Ajdabiya, and it was then that we became friends. People bond easier in war. Nobody wants to die next to a stranger.

“As long as you take me, no problem. I’m not rushing anywhere. And don’t worry about your boy. It will be all right.”

“Insallah. But if he dies, it will be for a just cause. God loves his martyrs.”

“But you don’t want him to die, do you?”

“Of course not. I am his father. But God’s ways are unfathomable. If God wills it, he will die as a martyr, and of course I also fear this.”

We turned off the paved road. The earth was red and damp, and the sun was so blindingly bright we could hardly see the ruins of Cyrene. The sunshine spilled from the hills and onto the ancient statues, columns, and ruined stone houses.

“We are going to Shahat, it’s close now,” said Hamid. “You can see a shahid burial.”

“One of your relatives?”

“No. They asked me to make an entrance in the register of the dead before the burial. I am a doctor, so it is something I can do.”

“Where are the doctors of the town?”

“At the front, like all the other men. Just the old and wounded stayed behind.”

“Why do you need a registry of the dead?”

“Because if we prevail, the new government will remember the martyrs of the revolution. Having the paperwork will help.”

At the checkpoint at the beginning of the street, the guards recognized Hamid’s car, and waved us on. We drove between the white-washed houses, and pulled up in front of a two-story house. In the yard stood a tent made of dark linen. From speakers rose the sound of devotional music. In front of the tent stood an older, gray-haired man. Next to him stood a young man of perhaps twenty.

“Let’s go and congratulate the father,” said Hamid, and killed the ignition.

“Won’t I be disturbing?”

“Of course not! You are bringing the news of his son to the world.”

The tent was almost full with people sitting on plastic chairs. A picture was positioned in the front: a portrait of the martyr, I believed, though I couldn’t make it out so well. Two men stepped up to the tent before us, but before they went in, each clasped the old man’s hand and said, “Congratulations on your son.”

“Ahmed Bakush, your son is already with the angels,” said Hamid in Arabic, when we arrived by the tent.

“Alhamdulillah,” answered the old man. “It is a great honor for us.”

He held his hand out to me. “You must be the journalist. Ahlen.”

“Thanks,” I said, taking his hand and shaking it, then involuntarily offering my hand to the young man as well.

“Khalid Bakus,” said the boy. He stood there looking downcast, his eyes red with sleeplessness. He had short black hair, his skin was light brown, and his eyes brown. He was striking, most certainly well liked among the local women.

“You can be proud of your brother, Khalid. Pray that God grants you as much courage as he had,” said Hamid, turning to the boy.

“Yes, I am proud,” came the choked response as the boy hung his head.

“Where is the Shahid?” asked Hamid.

“Inside. Hurry, we are waiting for you to begin the burial,” said the older man.

“OK, but we can’t stay for the ceremony. We have to get back to Tobruk, and find a car to Salloum.”

More pallbearers arrived. Hamid went back to the car and retrieved his attaché case from the trunk.

“Can I go in with you?” I asked, while we made our way to the house.

“Come, if you want.”

Hamid knocked loudly to signal we were coming in, and the women should clear out. The inside of the house was set in gloom, with the shades drawn tight. A tile stairway led to the upper level. After a search in the darkness, Hamid found the lamp.

It was a sparsely furnished room, with three matterres  centered on a Persian carpet. The boy was laid out on one of the mattresses. He couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, his body torn and bloodied in fatigues that looked gritted over with sand. His skin was gray, like he had been dead for days. His eyes were closed. I stood speechless at the door. The boy was the spit and image of the one whom I had met outside the tent.

“You didn’t mention they were twins.”

“Indeed they are. Mohamed was older by just a few minutes. Both are 19. Now please give me a hand.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Undress him and examine the wounds.”

Hamid stepped up to the corpse, knelt beside it on the rug, and began to unbutton his fatigues. The boy’s face was dirty, and his skin and hair were encrusted with sand.

“Don’t think the parents are barbarians because they didn’t wash or change their martyr’s clothing,” said Hamid. He finally finished unbuttoning the jacket, the material coming unstuck from the wounds with a smacking sound. The ripe stench of congealed blood wafted across the room. The boy’s chest was bullet-pocked and smeared with blood.

“In accordance with the Hadith, the Shahid gets buried in the same place and in the same clothing in which their lives were taken,” he said. With clinical eyes he looked over the boy’s chest. He opened his attaché case and withdrew a form and a fountain pen. He touched the tip of the pen to one of the bullet wounds. I counted that there were three small red craters, each capped with blood.

“Yes, it’s a 7.62 size round,” said Hamid.

“How do you know?”

“The tip of my pen is the same size as a 7.62 round. This is the entrance wound. If you compare it to the pen, you can establish what kind of bullet it was. If the wound is smaller than the pen then a 9 mm shot was used, something like a pistol or machine gun. If bigger, then a 50 was used. It must be said that if you find a 50, you won’t have to measure it, because the body will be torn apart. A 50 sure tears apart the body. I do it this way because in Islam, it is a sin to cut up a martyr. The pen method is the only way we can establish just how he met his end.”

He began to fill out the form.

“The form concerning his internal organs, I won’t bother with,” he said.

“Do you know what happened?” I asked.

“Three days earlier there was a tank attack by Gaddafi’s men in Brega. Mohamed and his group took to a ditch while the tanks advanced toward the city. According to Khalid’s account, they lay petrified in the ditch because the tank had spotted them and began to fire. Nobody made a move except for Mohamed. It is obvious that between the two brothers, he was the more brave. Now help me turn him over, please.”

We stood, lifted the corpse, and turned him onto his stomach. The body was stiff. The shirt was just tatters on his back, the rounds had torn his skin to shreds where the bullet had exited. Hamid began to write again.

“And?”

“Well the wounds definitely show that Mohamed fought like a true Mujahed. They only had one RPG; he jumped up and shot it at the tank, taking out its wheels. The tank returned fire, of course, but by then the others had already retreated.

“He might have lived if he was wearing a vest.”

“The Mujahed don’t wear them.”

“Why not?”

“It slows them down.”

“That’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. A bullet-proof vest is thirteen kilos. Furthermore, every Mujahed hopes to be taken by God.

“And because of this they are willing to do stupid things?”

“No. Just willing to make sacrifices.”

“Why?”

“Because the prophet, peace be upon him, taught us, that he who makes a sacrifice for the just cause and loses his life, will go immediately to heaven.”

“Were both brothers Mujahed?”

“Yes. They both asked from their father to allow them to follow the call of the Jihad. Mohamed was the more fortunate. He is already with God. Khalid brought the body home. He didn’t stop at the front of Ajdabiya, but came straight here.”

“But you said before that he should be buried where he fell.”

“Yes, but it is not so strict. It is more important that we hold the ground. If Gaddafi’s soldiers break through again, they will desecrate the graves. That’s why Khalid brought the body home. Now help me turn him back.”

We flipped the body over. It wasn’t an easy job to dress him again, because the buttons were slippery with blood.

“It’s a big honor for their family. Ahmed Bakush should be very proud of his older boy. The whole of Libya should be as well.  He lived and died according to Islam. Come on, let’s wash our hands.”

We stood and started downstairs. The sink was on the ground floor.

“Now what will happen?”

“Now the men will come in. They will sew him into white linen, and carry him on their shoulders to the graveyard. There is already an open grave waiting. We needn’t stick around for this, because we should get to Tobruk before sundown, and you need to find a car going to Salloum.”

As I was washing with lavender-smelling soap, I heard shouting coming from outside. We went to the door. A large crowd stood on the street, with their hands gesticulating wildly in the air. A few people in the crowd began to shove and push, and the women in the procession wailed loudly.

“Get in the car and wait,” said Hamid, putting the key in my hand. I sat in the car, and watched Hamid disappear into the crowd. I turned on the radio. The patriotic songs of Free Libya murmured forth, and then the provisional council’s spokesperson came on and announced that that the revolutionary army’s offensive to retake Brega had begun; currently the rebels were engaged in fighting in the city’s outer districts. It was a quarter hour before Hamid returned, walking to the car with quick footsteps. He opened the door and sat.

“OK, let’s go,” said Hamid, turning off the radio. Hamid gave the car some gas, and the wheels began to turn. We left the crowd behind, and drove away, turning past the checkpoint to the main road. We drove for a while in silence. He looked somehow pained.

“What was the commotion out there?” I asked, finally breaking the quiet.

“Khalid, the younger brother, shot himself.”

“What? What is Islamic about that?”

“Nothing. Suicide is the most disgusting sin. It will send you to hell.”

“Does this happen frequently?”

“Not at all. It is forbidden in Islam.”

We were back on the serpentine main road. The sun’s full strength was shining by now, and the air was balmy. Above us, Cyrene’s ancient rocks shined on the hillside like white teeth in a skull.

–translated by Matt Ellis

——————————————————————————————————

Sándor Jászberényi is a war correspondent who makes his living in the conflict zones of the Middle East. His book on the Arab Spring will be released later this year. His fiction has been published in most every major literary review in Hungary.

Verse Revisited

“In the Waiting Room” by Elizabeth Bishop

I used to be an avid reader of poetry. From about the age of 16 through my early 30s, I regularly acquired, read, read about, and sometimes studied poetry from a variety of styles, schools, and historical periods. Then I stopped. In the early days of Pilvax, I read and edited the poetry selections, but even then my reading of verse not related directly to the magazine was waning. Returning to university to start an intensive post-graduate program five years ago added distractions, and the reasons not to read even a short poem now and then just kept piling up.

So I’ve decided to do something about that. I miss poetry. I miss rhythmic language, I miss the way a particular poet’s cadences and word choice will slip into my consciousness after spending some time with her, I miss the way a trained hand can guide my wandering mind. Having been away for a while, I thought I’d ease my way back in by returning to poets and verse that I enjoyed back in my poetry-reading days . . . before, perhaps, moving on to unfamiliar territory. This occasional column won’t be so much about analysis or close critical reading. More likely, it will be a collection of thoughts and observations, brief and informal, which describes some of my reactions on coming back to poetry. I encourage any readers to add to my thoughts in the comments section.

For my first entry I’ve chosen Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room,” which was first published in her collection Geography III in 1976. It’s a bit of a high school poem, to be sure, and it wasn’t my first choice when I was thinking about this project. I always remembered some of her other poems more fondly – especially “At the Fishhouses,” “The Prodigal,” and “The Moose.” But in working my way through her Complete Poems, something about “Waiting Room” kept jumping out at me.

It’s a poem that most poets, most students of American poetry, and maybe nearly anybody who remembers high school English class can recall. A little girl sits in a waiting room while her Aunt Consuela has some dental work done. She flips through an issue of National Geographic magazine. She has an epiphany, a moment of enlightenment in which she sees the world and its people as interconnected. She becomes, momentarily, one with them (“you are one of them,” a voice tells her). The dreary patients who share the waiting room with her are no closer or more alike with her than the “black, naked women” of the magazine, or the “dead man slung on a pole / ‘Long Pig,’ the caption said.”

The poem grabbed me because, in one sense, it’s a fairly traditional example of American Transcendentalism. The little girl in the poem is having an Emersonian eye experience that so many other American poets have had. Yet she’s not out in nature, she’s not contemplating the rocks and the birds and the trees. She’s sitting in a waiting room, surrounded by “shadowy gray knees, / trousers and skirts and boots.” It’s a mundane experience, one she resents at the beginning of the poem (her “foolish aunt”), and yet amidst the mundane she has her moment of universal connectedness (she recognizes how “unlikely” this should be).

It’s almost funny – it would be funny, if only it weren’t so serious. And if only it didn’t lead so organically to that lovely, unsettling question: who am I? And it’s the way that question is reached that really jumped out at me this time around, really reminded me that, yes, I have been missing something:

But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.

“I scarcely dared to look / to see what it was I was.” Those are the lines that sell it for me. They imbue the moment with an element of danger that does not regularly accompany the transcendental poetic moment. I appreciate the honesty of that sense of danger, that sense of discomfort and unease, which comes along with an experience that is too often milked for a triumphant but, perhaps, unearned wisdom.

- Aaron Hunter

 

The Cathedral of Es, by Michael Stein

An extract from a novel about spies, writers, and a lost generation in training in 1990s Prague.

There was no sweetness in his fatigue, such as one feels after a jaunt up to the castle just to be there the exact moment the setting sun fades from view. After that, one’s exhaustion is mingled with a sense of satisfaction, whereas Johann had kept to the flat, urban side of the river, had kept to Nové Město’s large, busy streets, even avoiding the parks, and was utterly drained of everything one can be drained of – energy, hope, ideas; if you can even think of it, he lacked it at that moment, lying on his favorite couch whose worn upholstery felt like a towel, but which he had grown used to over time.

Why had he walked so far while going nowhere? He was gutted like a gambler who was unable to stop, but in his case there had been no glamour, no thrills and not even a mathematical possibility of winning. What would you win on a long walk anyway? At least if you run it can be a marathon. No one will laugh at you then. But then why was he thinking about someone laughing at him? Zuzka wasn’t home and would more likely have pouted and asked him whether he didn’t have anything better to do.

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Budapest Poems: Per Svenson

PER  SVENSON
BUDAPEST  POEMS

LÁNCHÍD

A room of one’s own!
- with a balcony
facing south,
the Buda one,
and then another,
that of  Pest,
also facing south.
I’ll think I’ll stay
and work here
(in a way
just like another beggar)
for a minute or two
in the sun,
letting the river
and its greige intensity
seep into my effort
as a pleased bi-local
go-between.

AKADÉMIA

You like to stand
at the northwest corner
of the Academy building,
seeing
the no 2 tram,
this slow and elegant
sunbeam, all gold
and yellow, pass you
on its way to
Széchenyi Isztván tér,
formerly Roosevelt tér,
suddenly
leaving you alone
in the sun.

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