"Watch the light-footed muses swell into dragons abusing / such treasure with threats of copyright litigation" – Budapest Shorts, five new poems from Thomas Ország-Land.
–To my son Dávid
My father taught me to die,
when I must, like a human being.
My mother taught me to trust
and sing like a human being.
And a boy and a king, alone
with a stone, a sling and a harp
has left me the chutzpah to try
to hone and sharpen and fling
each thought and word and line
beyond the confines of time
that bind a human being.
A FEAST IN THE GARDEN
–For George Konrád
Worried, what with his women and walls and wealth,
poor Solomon wisely bade a scribe to describe
the lofty lifting – like the sun – of depression.
A bestseller from the past!... well worth a review.
A wretched start: There’s nothing new under the sun.
The women are fickle. The flowers bow to every wind.
The men are tyrants or servants or fools, and even
I might die – outrageously under the sun.
…Even the women will, and the flowers, and you.
These walls might crumble in time. We must return
into being dust or rain or hillside or thunder,
whatever our desires under the sun.
How dreadful. Still, this hour is mine, while it lasts,
enough to complete my poem among the flowers
rejoicing in my loves and our never recurring
lives as human beings under the sun.
For György Faludy (1910-2006)
Even the best of us
(you thought) are doomed to fall,
and even the best of health
could grant us no reprieve.
How well you fail the test…
Poet, rest in peace!
Your critics have dispersed –
and you’re alive
in timeless rhymes that will
survive the rest of us.
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
–In memoriam György Timár (1929-2003)
Oblivious to his grandson – a gift! –
absorbed in a birthday book,
my timorous brother lifted his eyes
from the Danube to the sky.
The stench of burning human flesh
eternally clung to his own.
Persistent hunger whipped him crazy.
The death he’d escaped filled his life.
He clenched and raised his fist towards
a distant, friendly sky:
For Your own sake, my Lord, I take,
I take… You do not exist.
In memoriam Fifi Radnóti (1912-2014)*
How some surviving widowed spouses adore to invade
their loved ones’ abandoned sandcastles made of words!
First, they define the lines of these inherited structures
built over a lifetime of doubt in great hesitation.
Next they serve up verse that has long belonged to the world,
well seasoned with footnotes and diaries, imposing a plan.
Watch the light-footed muses swell into dragons abusing
such treasure with threats of copyright litigation.
Thus I behold my loves – survivors of splendour – in awe
and fondly question their certitude of my mind.
Traveller! should you use of my crumbling pile as road-mark,
read only the words and pass, without explanation.
* Fanni Gyarmati was the widow of Miklós Radnóti (1909-2014),
perhaps the greatest among the Holocaust poets: see Deathmarch
(The Penniless Press & Snakeskin, both in England, 2009).
THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is an award-winning poet and foreign correspondent who writes from Budapest, Jerusalem and London. His last book was Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust (Smokestack/England, 2014), and his last E-chapbook, Reading for Rush Hour: A Pamphlet in Praise of Passion (Snakeskin/England, 2016).