03. 06. 2009. 08:14

Beneath Pannonia's Sky (poems)

Ágnes Gergely

"I am so very, very good
as ancient kings and hares that nested
in fairy-tales; in twilight, thugs
and coachmen leave me unmolested."

Beneath Pannonia's Sky
 
The road turns by the press-house and a white
mud village greets me huddling to the right,
 
blue winding polished hill road that I see
with an intruder's curiosity
 
with not a soul just trees and tidy lines
of modest homes with aerials and vines
 
past wine vaults and beneath Pannonia's sky
a grey prophet – a little donkey – ambles by
 
she waves back with a mother-of-pearl ear –
the prosperous plebeian class dwelled here
 
when carts of travelling merchants left a track
along these gentle hills five centuries back:
 
calm bakers of brown loaves and honey-bread
they watched above the mounting thunderhead
 
behind them a castle resounded with music and dance
of the Renaissance with Italian elegance
 
and roads took root wherever their carts would ply
their trundling trade beneath Pannonia's sky –
 
in his brown caftan tightly wrapped, one day
my own forefather might have come this way
 
and where I stand he might have glanced and slowed
his pace to preach with caution by the road
 
perhaps that other one, more sober, plain
made fancy saffian footwear by the lane
 
as his wife with amber eyes surveyed the ground
and kept her guard against a hostile hound
 
and a toddler played about her gathering
herbs from these very slopes and she would sing --
 
their psalms and their tanned leathers' scent would fill
the air and travel far beyond the hill
 
surviving winters, with the gales they flew
and from the maggots' entrails rose anew...
 
these lands caress them softly like a shroud
they came unasked and graceful like a cloud
 
they were, as I protect and hold to my
own soil, protected by Pannonia's sky:
 
both ways the road winds blue beyond your span
so leave this land and run, run... if you can.
 
 
Sign on My Door Jamb
            In memoriam my father
 
I do not cherish memories
and even those I hold I do not safeguard.
I do not seek forgotten graveyards.
Organic chemistry does not move me.
 
Yet, at times like this, towards November
as fog-damped windows seal this room
and I gasp for air and relief, I am surprised 
-- not knowing where your body lies --
when I’m confronted by your odd gestures
arising through the waters of my mind.
 
I feel your long and nervous fingers as they
arrange a Thermos flask and a pocket knife
with an old can opener in the gaping knapsack,
and also warm underclothes and a prayer-book
and under the weightless load you still can carry
I share the creaking surprise of your back.
I sense your departure. Elegant tramp, you set out,
you’d never leave the house, you only set out,
and look back laughing, aged just 38 years,
and you nod and you gesture, I'll soon be back
-- your birthday should have been the next day --
though you whimper inwards like a Mednyánszky portrait
and you wave -- and how and how you wave!

Sign on my doorjamb, you've remained:
and Ferdinand Bridge, the sludgy march, the bars,
the fatal empty weakness, the gorging of grass --
forget these freak inventions of the mind.
For I have lied: I see you often
beneath the stifling, low November sky...
You’re setting out with me, breathing within me.
I’m letting your tears go dribbling down my throat
and above, where it has no business, that thin
Memphis cigarette... struck from your mouth
is burning through the skin of a star.
 
 
Evening Prayer
 
I am so very, very good
as ancient kings and hares that nested
in fairy-tales; in twilight, thugs
and coachmen leave me unmolested.
 
I'd be your roadside brook if you
should come from a lengthy journey tired.
For I'm so very, very good
as gulps of water when desired.
 
Above the waves, beneath the waves,
I'd fall asleep with all escaping
my vision, and let my eyelids be sealed
by peaceful flowers, white and gaping.
 
Translated by Thomas Ország-Land

Tags: Ágnes Gergely