A collection of poems by András Gerevich entitled Tiresias's Confession has been published in English by Corvina, Budapest. "It is one of the most difficult things in the world to write poems so clear, so pellucid, so free of metaphor and simile as to be almost pure speech", writes poet George Szirtes, one of the translators.
You’d even wiped the dust away,
the apartment shone as did the room,
order suffused everything,
it was like being in a museum
or before the arrival of guests.
The only incongruent thing was
the dog-end in the ashtray of the kitchen table.
You’d left your ID card by the bed
so there’d be no need to fumble around for it.
The empty pill-foils too were tucked away
in medicine boxes in the drawer.
You lay on the bed in your clothes
covered up. But your body was cold
by then, stiff and swollen.
I came to you first for analysis
but, instead, became your friend,
one who filled your hours and days
because no alarm clock rang for the end
of the session; there was no ‘Goodbye and thanks
and we will continue this next time.’
And so it went on for weeks, for months, our
afternoons, our drinking time shared,
we holidayed together at Révfülöp
and partied away nights in Amsterdam.
At times you seemed to be twenty, I forty.
One night though you locked yourself away
and no longer answered the telephone,
though Agi and Gabi went crazy looking for you
because we knew our time was up.
I was terrified one night when I
drunkenly escorted you home
and you confessed your love at the door.
You gabbled, you were awkward in the telling,
your face betrayed you, showed you were confused,
excited and afraid
even after all those shots of vodka.
You were always a father to me,
why could not I remain your son?
Be strong, put up with everything!
I’ll show you! I thought, I’ll remain the child
who comes at night to tell you his adventures,
scoffs the cream cakes in the ice-box,
sinks into the armchair and stays till dawn:
someone you swam with at the pool
(everyone was naked in the changing room
but it meant nothing), someone who tried
to set you up with X or Y, for better or worse.
Sometimes I took a trip out to the cemetery,
I took Xanax on waking, took it to get sleep,
went to analysts to go over our memories
to change and forget them,
to wait impatiently for the alarm-clock.
I avoided the street where you lived
because that which is not has never existed –
I lied whole years of life out of existence,
lied Amsterdam out of existence,
lied people out of existence.
I don’t know when I was saving myself,
when I was being honest,
In one nightmare I can’t find my way home.
I arrive at your place, but we can’t sleep.
You tell me how in childhood you were afraid of
some ridiculous film in black and white,
a huge tin can covered a clumsy gopher’s head.
I heard the hoarse breath of Darth Vader in my room.
I am Luke, you are Obi Van Kenobi.
Then suddenly its dawn and summer blooms in winter,
the light strikes us as we draw the curtains,
cars cruise and pigeons purr.
I rush for the first bus, five a.m. at dawn,
I get on it, it scares me because it’s empty,
then it starts up, so quiet it seems to flow.
The Bridge is missing, the 78 runs into the Danube,
I realise it can’t now take me home
because I’ve forgotten where I live, because the city
is unrecognisable, because no one lives there.
I’d run back to your place but the blinds are drawn,
each nook and cranny is dark, the bell won’t ring,
and the street and the house, everything is strange.
In my pocket instead of the key I find
A slip of paper: the force is with you.
It is your farewell letter.
I slipped into the church, exhausted
after a night spent crushing into parties,
to kneel down before Christ amidst the palms.
A teenager, I loved making such lonely
visits to the empty, noiseless church
so as to send a prayer up for true love.
Because I was secretly in love with my
best friend – torn apart, tortured
with longing for the man in him.
But once I’m through the door today
I can get no further than the grating:
in a shrieking car alarm, the words I cannot find
are like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
noisy with the highway traffic;
scents line up before the mirror
but the fridge is empty, the handle sticky.
the one you never find at home
because he sleeps in other men’s apartments:
rows of alluring snapshots fill the wall.
put his pants on, slip into his bed,
adopt his surname – if you move in,
all you’ll be is part of the furniture.
I watched the sweet brown drops dissolve
in the calm, salt, transparent Adriatic,
then vanish in the space of a moment.
‘Today I’ve reached the age,’
my mother said as we finished breakfast,
‘my own mother was the day she died.’
I dived off a cliff into the water.
Last year I too knew the exact day
(I’d worked it out weeks in advance)
I reached the age my father
was when I was born.
It was a boring weekday, Wednesday,
we sipped morning coffee together in bed,
I felt your stubble when I kissed you,
like the prickly realisation inside me
no-one would upend that sandglass again.
No-one in sight. Silence. Planes.
We haven’t met for ages. I’ve missed you.
as if we had seen each other yesterday:
your face looks not a minute older.
Laughing, you watch me drop my eyes.
What does it matter, after so much time?
I didn’t mean to, forgive me!
Cackling crows break in on my words.
For the first time in six years, you put
your hand on my shoulder, hug me.
You head is resting against my head.
Don’t be a fool, life goes on.
Your black gravestone reflects the sky.
It’s bitterly cold: your voice comes from a distance.
Don’t hanker, learn to take delight!
Live, don’t carve an image of yourself!
Who cares? What’s past, is past.
Expect no forgiveness. Get that into your head!
I loved you as though you were my father
and all you could do was kill yourself!
Torment themselves with accusations?
Did you want me to let the years slip by
Empty rushing, persistent anxiety,
is that what you wanted to leave behind?
you say. See a shrink if you can’t grow up.
Get a grip on yourself! But I won’t be stopped.
Try learning to live with the memory of me!
Or if you’d rather, lie in the smutty earth!
- I told you I would. – I didn’t believe you,
and it all fell apart. – Pull yourself together!
crammed warehouses, resounding graves.
A fly preens itself along my hand.
I miss you. Taking leave, my mind’s as calm
as if I’d been stuffed full of sedatives.
An interview with András Gerevich
Tags: András Gerevich