01. 09. 2009. 10:33

Tiresias's Confession (poems)

András Gerevich

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.

"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. Everything depends on narrative shape and tone because there is little else. András Gerevich's poems are like that. They are mostly about love, desire, and passion; a little like a diary, a little like a letter, a little like a confessional, the first person singular being at the centre of each. But there is nothing self-indulgent about them. In that respect they are reminiscent of Catullus on the one hand and Cavafy, in some moods, on the other. It is the range and precision of emotion that gives them their necessary independence: voice becomes free-standing sculpture, moving, elegant, beautiful. The poems enter English with a lightness, almost unannounced, as immediately recognisable feelings that make their own space and hold it as naturally as if they always belonged there." (George Szirtes)
i.m. I.I.
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,
when unfair.
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.
Translated by George Szirtes

Half drunk at daybreak, stinking of cigarettes
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.
Translated by Christopher Whyte

Desire is a cramped, fusty apartment
noisy with the highway traffic;
scents line up before the mirror
but the fridge is empty, the handle sticky.
This is where the cutest guy lives,
the one you never find at home
because he sleeps in other men’s apartments:
rows of alluring snapshots fill the wall.
Stick your own photos up among them,
put his pants on, slip into his bed,
adopt his surname – if you move in,
all you’ll be is part of the furniture.
Translated by Christopher Whyte

Family chronometer
Letting my cocoa drip into the sea
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.
Translated by Christopher Whyte

In memoriam I.I.
Black trees beneath a cloudy sky.
No-one in sight. Silence. Planes.
We haven’t met for ages. I’ve missed you.
You vanished six years ago, but you smile
as if we had seen each other yesterday:
your face looks not a minute older.
That was some bunker you did.
Laughing, you watch me drop my eyes.
What does it matter, after so much time?
It still hurts, my voice falters,
I didn’t mean to, forgive me!
Cackling crows break in on my words.
You’re going bald, you say, a man already.
For the first time in six years, you put
your hand on my shoulder, hug me.
What anger there was is all in the past.
You head is resting against my head.
Don’t be a fool, life goes on.
Drizzling rain washes the gravel,
Your black gravestone reflects the sky.
It’s bitterly cold: your voice comes from a distance.
Don’t stuff food down, relish all the flavours!
Don’t hanker, learn to take delight!
Live, don’t carve an image of yourself!
Think your poems can be a justification?
Who cares? What’s past, is past.
Expect no forgiveness. Get that into your head!
But who’s going to forgive you? I ask.
I loved you as though you were my father
and all you could do was kill yourself!
Is that what you wanted? For people to miss you?
Torment themselves with accusations?
Did you want me to let the years slip by
hoping to escape into the future?
Empty rushing, persistent anxiety,
is that what you wanted to leave behind?
Quit squabbling, we’ll make up anyway,
you say. See a shrink if you can’t grow up.
Get a grip on yourself!
But I won’t be stopped.
So I did a bunker? You did, actually!
Try learning to live with the memory of me!
Or if you’d rather, lie in the smutty earth!
I never believed you’d go that far.
- I told you I would. – I didn’t believe you,
and it all fell apart. – Pull yourself together!
A tram rolls past, then peace returns:
crammed warehouses, resounding graves.
A fly preens itself along my hand.
I won’t let you down again, I promise.
I miss you.
Taking leave, my mind’s as calm
as if I’d been stuffed full of sedatives.
Translated by Christopher Whyte
Previously on HLO
An interview with András Gerevich

Tags: András Gerevich