12. 09. 2008. 07:52

The Garden of Exile (poems)

George Gömöri

"Small Nations / as a rule peep out of the pockets of big ones / and there they rave and wave their arms about: / 'vile usurper!' / or / 'dearest friend!'"

Data for a Natural History of Small Nations
 
Small Nations
as a rule peep out of the pockets of big ones
and there they rave and wave their arms about:
'vile usurper!'
or
'dearest friend!'
at times of historic hurricanes
they fall into hoof-prints brimming with water
heavy cavalry clatters over them
they are rolled flat by caterpillar tracks
but those who survive
tattered and torn and maimed and half-paralysed
go on raving and waving –
in disbelief the giants shake their heads:
'what resilience!'
'who would have believed it?'
 
these small nations can take quite a lot
 
 
Conversation in Jerusalem
 
What's the news? Nothing unusual.
Yesterday – Friday – three criminals
were put to death by the Romans.
Two robbers, and a batty
would-be prophet accused
of incitement against the State.
How? The usual way: you know,
crucifixion. Towards evening, yes,
a small earthquake occurred, causing
cracks in the wall of the Temple, but no
damage to people or property.
Tomorrow, by the way, the Proconsul
is giving a great dinner and
everyone who's anyone is invited.
He's bringing a chef over – so they tell me –
from Alexandra, no less! So while
nothing unusual happened this weekend,
the dinner should be an exceptional event.
 
 
The Garden of Exile
 
This garden is unlike all others: English,
well-tended French, or charming Japanese,
open or closed, lawn-covered, flower-rich;
this is a garden I was banished to
for opening my mouth too wide, just once,
and boldly speaking out. It isn't nearly
as depressing as some imagine, neither is it
as colourful or scented or luxurious
as the view from a grim tenement makes it seem.
There are two fruit-trees that adorn this garden:
the trees of freedom and of memory.
From either tree you must pick an equal burden,
but never should forget its history:
that while you made the garden as your own,
the two trees there belong to God alone.
 
Cover photograph by Otto Kaiser


Translated by: Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri

Tags: George Gömöri