09. 08. 2004. 09:47

Who Plays the Other Role? (Poems)

"Lo, here I stand. No drama, no poetics. / My dear one tells me I'm a frigid bitch: / my solid scale of values seems to topple."

Orsolya Karafiáth (1976), the "new Hungarian literary diva", a vamp and a poet of great formal talent in one person, writes post-postmodern poems with romantic, sometimes sentimental and melodramatic overtones. She is a "showbiz" poet who considers the live presentation of poetry very important. She has one volume of poetry, Lotte Lenya titkos éneke (The Secret Song of Lotte Lenya, 1999), her second volume, Café X is to be published soon.


i cannot choose your touching any more
the touchings we have left are without truth
moments off-guard - what are we touching for
you gave me up and now i give up too
instead i rather choose your distantness
while still your distantness will seek me out
as an exchange please take my distantness
you've yielded me i too am yielding now
i opt for your regard whatever cold
forgiving aspects your regard may show
you too want my regard for after all
you've let me go and now i too let go
            there's no lovelier split no easier one
            give up while i too still am giving up     

Potted history

The gossip spread around like wildfire:
tongues wagged about back-of-the-shop-based screwing;
people mentioned a child, a sobbing wife abandoned.
They cursed the vandal who had torn asunder
these strong and holy bonds.  (That's me.)  A good day
would see me classed as stinking whore, but there was worse.
From telephone calls late at night I learned
just what a wicked bitch I was.

That's the last time I ever go out with a florist.
For such a pairing there's no fertile soil.
No one will coo to me that I'm a rose, a dahlia:
my love will sprout in someone else's heart henceforth.  

Why was I taken in by flowery words?!
My good name, such as it was, has gone to pot.

our rooms in november

where could you withdraw to when
there's no meaning even in
shadows any longer
these rooms here just novembery
lacking heating system
are no warmer than nothingness
radiator noises and long-since-
tired-of music fills them up
widening the narrow space
of the summers of your memory

i know these minutes are hard
to give up the re-evokings
like the last cigarettes you smoked
again and again keep returning
it turns into a scent which
you can recognize anywhere then
it will remain inside us like stale air
in a closed room at start of day

early-winter collage: everywhere
november just as if the whole
coldness had been cut up with scissors pasted
into one frozen picture
which perhaps seems a bit monotonous
if you don't look with due attention
at its beautiful settled hues

the poems we know are also now
returning to life gradually comes
the time to relearn the winter trees
amongst the grove's denuded bushes
while their colours might just mingle
it'll be a fine enough spectacle
when our room's window totally transforms
into glassy chilly november
we'll spend a long time looking at the crows
happy the person who has a home

Dark colors

I'm coming face-to-face with the gloomy truth:
Good sir, you have discarded me.  All for nothing,
then, were the tight skirt, pert decolletage -
your mind's eye no longer strolls my hills and dales.

What use listing everything you're losing -
the sensuous nibbling sessions which you shall no longer
partake in, the intellectual companion,
the kitchen sprite, in hard times the good mother?!

My children's father, my support in old age,
it is now certain, will be another man.
For us two there's no happy, secure future.

I'd urge you to look the sad fact in the face:
a desert of drained-empty days awaits you;
a warmthless, messed-up bachelor apartment ...

Who plays the other role?

So this is what a woman's soul needs: I must know
where my place is, who's master of the household.
My dear one holds a power demonstration.
The Lord protect the china dinner service.  

"Please don't," I'd like to whisper to him gently,
but feel it's better now to just listen.
My greatest virtue is speedy adaptation:
I easily become the ideal suffering subject.

Lo, here I stand. No drama, no poetics.
My dear one tells me I'm a frigid bitch:
my solid scale of values seems to topple.

("Sweet little pillar of salt," I think of myself,
while staring at the slammed shut door.  Lo, here
I stand.  And lean my head against the wall.)

Translated by: David Hill

Tags: Orsolya Karafiáth