04. 12. 2006. 12:22

The Dead Instruct the Living (Poems)

Imre Oravecz

"Suddenly the horses vanished too,
as if from one day to the next they had been taken to slaughter,
though really it took years
until they wasted away, one by one, unnoticed"

The Dead Instruct the Living
(A halott tájékoztatja az éloket)

This is the house I lived in
this is the window I looked out of
this is the bed I slept in
the clothes I wore
and the meals I ate
these are the books I read
the woman I loved
the son I fathered
these are the principles I held
and the lies I hated
this is the ground my feet touched
the paths I walked
the forest I searched for mushrooms
this is the creek I waded in
the mountain that awed me
this was my favorite valley
the scent of lucerne was most heady in this clearing
I stepped out of the house through this yard
I planted these trees
and I trimmed this grass
this dog was closest to my heart
I took this path to the toolshed in summer
this is where I fed the titmice in winter
and where I watched the setting sun
here on this patio I relaxed at night
listened to the chirping of the crickets
the warm currents streamed around
here I knew the sweetness of existence
here I looked up at the starry sky before lying down

here I was among you.


We were always hiding, disappearing,
dug holes into bales of hay and wriggled in on our backs,
went up to the loft and pulled hay over ourselves,
draped a blanket over the wagon and settled in underneath,
at shucking time wrapped ourselves up in husks,
at cornstalking wedged ourselves into the sheaves,
our favorite spots the corner of the barn, the corn crib,
the tobacco shed, the cellar hatch, the chaff,
we loved the back end of the house, between haystacks,
the roof of the shed, among the woodpiles,
when it was quiet we plunged into the bowels of the grain thresher,
crawled beneath the plantains and the fence, into the lilac bushes, the hedge,
climbed the trees and retreated under the cover of leaves,
when no one was around we waded in the wheat, rye, oats, hemp,
and lay down on the ground,
in the forest we headed for the thickets, the copse,
at the edge of the woods we built arbors, grass huts,
as though we weren’t safe,
as though someone threatened us,
we were looking for cover, refuge,
we wanted to remain undetected,
spying out the world unseen,

we were on the look-out for attack, siege, capture,
afraid of some nonexistent, intangible danger,
which later, when we were grown, materialized.

Revival of Forestry          
(Az erdészet feltámasztása)

For H.C. Artman

day breaks,
dew glistens on the picket fence,

he gets up from beside his wife,
dresses in silence,
and equipped with binoculars, cane stool,
rifle, rounds, tags, signs,
in his pale summer uniform steps through the gate,
and the ranger heads out to make his rounds,

soon he turns off the beaten path,
cuts across the breezy clearing
and goes ahead into the thick,
off and on he stops and looks around,
notes the growth in the trees,
notes the decay in himself,
searches and destroys poachers’ traps,
though carefully avoids the edible mushrooms and herbs,

occasionally comes across clearings in his life,
smoothes out the moss where rumpled,
sets the blades of grass upright where pressed,
though this happens less and less frequently,

crosses a freshly cut glade,
and words press into his conscience:
branch, log, stump, shavings,
but he asks them to leave,
and makes room for the names of a few saplings,
then he moves on,
one by one puts the owls to sleep
and one by one awakens wild boar, deer, rabbits and thrushes,
and wipes the sleep from their eyes,

and returns to the ranger station,
takes out his watch from his breastpocket,
glances, and with the arrival of lumberjacks and firewood gatherers
he opens the forest day

The Horses
(A lovakról)

Suddenly the horses vanished too,
as if from one day to the next they had been taken to slaughter,
though really it took years
until they wasted away, one by one, unnoticed,
for a long time they were still there in the co-op,
you could see them working at the edge of the village,
used for the same work as before,
they ploughed, sowed, hauled,
and for the most part they were the same,
but no one worked with their own horses any longer,
instead they worked with any given horse,
whatever was convenient,
whatever the foreman ordered,
different than how it had been before,
the horses were untended, overworked,
feeding and grooming was placed in other hands,
new attendants worked in shifts
and there were those among them
who had never had anything to do with horses,
so it’s no wonder
they didn’t know what they were doing
and once a mare trampled her own foal underfoot
because after giving birth nobody looked at her,
this is how the profound link between human and animal came undone,
daily cleaning, concern, petting and talk abandoned
and indifference, lashing, cursing became the norm,
the master’s care wasn’t there to sustain the animals,
they withered, languished,
their hair lost its sheen, their manes matted, they were consumed by filth,
and their heads hung in sorrow,
yet they remained loyal,
their hearts hadn’t thrown their former masters,
they stirred and mournfully neighed
whenever they crossed paths,
their masters choked up
and siezed with bitter grief
like at home when they walked into the empty stable,
or when rummaging through junk for a nail,
their hands came across a wasting bridle or harness ring.

Translated by: Rachel Miller

Tags: Imre Oravecz