06. 23. 2018. 10:47

József Choli Daróczi: Romance of the girl with the lissom limbs

translated by Peter Sherwood

József Choli Daróczi, who died on 12 May this year just two weeks short of his 79th birthday, was one of the Hungarian Roma community's outstanding characters. – We are pleased to bring you a poem from József Choli Daróczi, translated by Peter Sherwood.

JÓZSEF CHOLI DARÓCZI

Romance of the girl with the lissom limbs

for Éva Tölcsér

 

Like fish that twist and turn and twirl
your lissom limbs high in the air
about my heart they curl and whirl
and plummet down-
dead fish, dead fish,
nerves outstretched along bowstrings
sensations tensed in every thought
flash zigzag lightning-like above–
your lissom limbs in fish, fish caught.

Sepulchre's silence drapes the dark.
blue winter blasts upon the wall
in the loins of the nerves
drowning fish slither and fall
My long hair.
in long wind:
your lissom limbs high in the air
swim further off
in water snaking
Unbuttoned heart. dreams that pound,
your lissom limbs, the fish, the fish
let the gypsy curse on me redound!

 

translated by Peter Sherwood

 

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A NOTE ON JÓZSEF CHOLI DARÓCZI

 

József Choli Daróczi, who died on 12 May this year just two weeks short of his 79th birthday, was one of the Hungarian Roma community's outstanding characters.  A writer and poet (in both Hungarian and Lovari), educator, translator, journalist, and prominent Roma activist, he was born into a family of Romanian origin but lived all his life in Hungary -- though he tried to escape in 1956 he was caught and sentenced to 10 months in jail, where he shared a cell with József Antall, later Hungary's first post-communist prime minister.  Daróczi's contribution to Roma culture in Hungary has been immense: he edited several Roma journals, translated a wide range of work into Lovari (from the work of Attila József, who -- with Endre Ady -- greatly influenced his verse, to the whole of the New Testament) as well as from Lovari into Hungarian, was prominent in public affairs, and ended his varied career teaching Roma studies, including language and history, in a provincial college.  Along with those of Károly Bari, József Osztojkán and Tamás Jónás, to mention only a few of the finest writers, the poems of József Choli Daróczi testify to the unique and still vastly underrated contribution of the Roma to Hungary's poetic culture.  The traditions and marginalized fate of their people continue to permeate their life and work, as can be seen even in this distinctive love poem, translated from Hungarian by Peter Sherwood.