09. 23. 2008. 10:22

Sequences of Holy Week (poems)

Szilárd Borbély

If you are yearning for the kind of catharsis that raises gooseflesh, then read The Splendours of Death by Szilárd Borbély. Be forewarned, however, as you are about to encounter one of the most staggering volumes to appear in recent decades. In suggestive verses of hypnotic strength, the poet erects a monument to a mother: a mother who became the victim of a savage murder.

The Splendours of Death is a book of pain, pain pushed just up to the borders of frenzy. And if even weeks later you choose to conjure up these haunting liturgies within yourself, you will feel its force grip you once again from within. (From the publisher's page)
Sequences of Christmas

Evening now in Bethlehem,
the swineherds fallen still.
Gipsy musicians playing
in a dilapidated inn.
When the Three Kings arrive,
three roses red as blood.
Three wilted lilies
at the stable doors knock.
As through the tiny crevice slips
the full moon’s slender shard.
And shines yet for two more years,
like the knife on the table laid.

Final Matters. Time without End

Across the winter land, the vapours rise
like ephemeral smoke from the furnace gas.
The Orthodox cemetery on the mountain side
blinding, like stone, in the sunlight,
incandescent, as in the crucible
fire ferments the melted ore.
In the afternoon the rain began,
as a few angels aimless lounged
outside the dram-shop, lurching into the mire,
for free booze or wenches to slake their desire.
While far away, in the distant outskirts
Time itself had vanished for good,
for the day of the Last Judgment had finally come,
as the hordes of Christians trampled each other down.
And the pagans just sat there, sipping their Coke,
in the tavern known as “Time without End”.

Matutinum. Responsorium

For when the sun into the depths descends,
     every hue is vanished.
The people searched throughout the town
     for the beggar Lazarus.
The slow silence of beings a droning
     chant: like evensong severe!
At the sight of the Deceased,
     the Soul to its ruin clings.
Our Lord, it was He! who perished
     for all time to come! – oh Hope,
what shall he do, of little faith,
     for all Poetry is gone!
Final Matters. Hell
He simply sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Him --
for years now. He said: I try to forget
in vain. That day was like any
other, like a confining husk --
he repeated every day. And he couldn’t
even die, that too was no use. He looked at the wall.
In his eyes there was no longer any light.
Only a few irrelevant thoughts flitted across
his brain. A hesitant smile. Where am I? --
he asked. But he expected no answer.
As with all the other questions, he hardly
believed there could be answers anywhere. He perceived, by now,
that there was nothing which could attain
the rising of that which has fallen. “Maybe
in another life…” he said at times. In vain. “For I
live among assassins, and that is how I betray Him.”
The Eternal is
cold, like the chisel
that was used to carve
the face of Jesus.
The Eternal is
submerged, like the pebble,
as you gaze at the river and see
the water once fallen tranquil.
The Eternal leaps
away, like the flea
already in the inferno
as you clutch futilely.
The Eternal is
profound, like that awareness
in which there resides
the mercy of our Christ.
The Eternal ticks
on, like the clock,
although at times neglecting
– perhaps – the hour of dawn.
The Eternal is thin
as the blade of the knife
which Death then slips
stealthily into your mouth.
The Eternal is,
like life itself, fleeting,
abruptly it ends
while you are still speaking.

The Eternal is
      what I would rather forget:
it is like life itself,
     unyielding, without end.
A man approaches from the south
      bearing a cross upon his back,
people gather round and ask,
     “where did you find that?”
The questions remain unanswered,
      he does not put it down,
he simply carries it further,
      in his pocket there’s no room.
He might put it in his wallet,
      but no, not even there,
as he counts his pieces of silver,
      “a thousand, one thousand and one more,”
Or even underneath his tongue,
      since at times the question came:
“Are you one of the disciples?”
      “Is Géza your name?”
“Are you by any chance Peter?”
      He looks up in distress,
Always must he go forward,
      Never finding rest.

The Eternal
is like the axe
that the assassin rams
into someone’s head.
The Eternal
is the act of pillage,
from which, in panic,
the garret is now empty.
The Eternal
is scarlet, like fresh
blood. Above it rises a vapour.
Then that too disappears.
The Eternal
is like the heart
of him whom the robbers
murdered without hesitation.
The Eternal
is like annihilation,
it destroys the Effigy,
the Face of the Dead.
The Eternal is
flawless, like the
indecipherable secrets
of the Perfect Crime.
The Eternal
is like the eye
of the one killed:
dread is in his gaze.
The Eternal is
as when the many Archangels
weep, who served
Jesus in their Multitude.
The Eternal
is like the Dawn,
to which the Guardian Angel
shall no longer awaken.

The Sequence of Emptiness
Ghastly the void on the sheet’s perimeter,
there where the sentence ends,
                   as it hovers
above the next, all the while browsing through
the leaves, yet nothing shall encompass
                   within itself
this world, which before you recedes,
should you not pay heed, for there the soul
                    no longer lives,
only vile Malediction, as in the mirror
you are pursued, and observed in the
                  eyes’ pupil
the pages’ confine, where the void may arise,
and the sentence written down undescribed,
                     may not remain,
for all that is written must be replete,
all that is Sacred in writing must be:
                      Marana tha!
May benediction upon us descend,
May this world pass away!

Translated by Ottilie Mulzet
Borbély Szilárd: Halotti pompa
Kalligram, 2006

Tags: Szilárd Borbély