11. 22. 2006. 14:37

With Pure Heart

Attila József

Six poems from a new Attila József volume in English, published by Green Integer Press (Los Angeles). The book, titled A Transparent Lion, was edited and translated by Gabor G. Gyukics and Michael Castro.

The Seventh One

Once you set foot on this earth,
Your mother gives you seven births!
Once in a blazing house afire,
once in an icy flood's cold mire,
once inside a loony bin,
once amidst waving wheat so thin,
once in cloister's hollow eye,
once among pigs in the sty.                        
All six cry, it's not enough, son,                          
Be yourself the seventh one!                                
 
If an enemy stands before you,                            
Have seven men who'd stand up for you.                               
One who begins his day at leisure,                                
one who works his daily measure,                                 
one who teaches gratis at his whim,                      
one who's thrown in the water to swim,               
one who's the seed of a forest's growth of years,                   
one who's protected by his ancestor's tears.        
But ruse or reproach won't get it done, –              
Be yourself the seventh one!                                
 
If you'd go looking for a lover,                            
Have seven men try to find her.                  
One who for her word gives up his heart,                      
One who pays for his own part,                                    
One who pretends to be a dreamer,                      
One who gropes her skirt to get her,                              
One who knows where her hooks can be found,                     
One who steps on her hanky on the ground, –
They all buzz like flies around carrion!
Be yourself the seventh one!                                         
 
If you could afford to compile a tome,                          
Have seven men compose this poem.                                     
One who builds a marble town,         
One born asleep, his eyelids down,             
One who charts the sky and knows it well,                     
One whose words can cast a spell,                      
One who sells his soul, trying to thrive,
One who carves up a rat while it's alive.
Two are brave and four are wise, son –
Be yourself the seventh one!                                
 
And if all this happened as was written,                         
Go to the grave as if you were all seven.               
One who rocks on a milky chest,                         
one who grasps at dried hard breasts,                  
one who tosses away empty pans,                       
one who lends the poor his helping hands,           
one who works like a man possessed,                                     
one who stares at the Moon, obsessed;                                   
You're already underground, my son!        
Be yourself the seventh one!                                 
 
(1932)


Ode  

1
 
I'm sitting here on a shimmering precipice.
The light breeze
of  the young summer, like the warmth
of a cherished supper, flies.
 
I make my heart get used to the silence.
It's not that hard –
what glided away, now swarms over here,
the head bends over and the hand
dangles
 
I watch the mane of the mountains –
the light of your forehead
sparkled by every leaf.
No one is on the road, no one,
I see how the wind
flutters your skirt.
And below the fragile hills
I see your hair inclining forward,
your soft breasts startling and
– while the Szinva creek runs away –
behold I see again, how the fairy laughter
springs on those round white stones,
your teeth.
 
2
 
Oh, how much I love you,
you who opened the universe
and the cunning loneliness
in the deepest cavern
of your heart.
 
You who part from me like the waterfall
from its own rumble, and softly run away,
while, among the peaks of my life,
near in the distance, I thunder, I scream,
struggling between the earth and the firmament,
that I love you, you sweet stepmother.
 
3
 
I love you like the child loves his mother,
like the taciturn caves their depth,
I love you, like enclosures love the light,
like the soul loves flame, like the body loves calm!
I love you, the way mortals love to live,
until they die.
 
I guard your every smile, motion and word,
like the ground guards fallen objects.
I etched you into my mind, like acid burns metal,
I burnt you in with my instinct,
you dear, beautiful image,
there your being fulfills every essence.
 
The moments march away rattling,
but you sit silently in my ears.
Stars ignite and fall down,
but you stand motionless in my eyes.
 
Your taste, like silence in the cave,
floats chilled in my mouth;
as with your finger round the waterglass,
delicate veins appear
luminously on your hand.
 
4
 
Oh, so what kind of matter am I,
that your glance carves and shapes?
What kind of spirit and light,
a vision worthy of amazement,
that I can wander through the haze of nothingness
over your lush body's gentle slopes?
 
And as the verb enters into an opening mind,
I'm allowed to descend into its mysteries! . . .
 
The bloodvessels like rosebushes,
endlessly throbbing.
They carry the eternal current to reveal love
upon your face, to flesh out the blessed fruit of your womb.
Through the sensitive ground of your stomach
many tiny roots embroider their tender yarn,
weave it into knots, loosen it,
the cells of your nectars collect their many legions
and the beautiful shrubs of your leafy lungs
whisper their own glory!
 
Eternal matter happily flows inside you
in the tunnels of the bowels,
and the excrement gains a rich vitality
in the wells of fervent kidneys!
 
Waving hills emerge,
constellations pulsate inside you,
lakes breathe, factories work,
millions of living animals bustle around,
bugs,
seaweed,
barbarity and goodness;
the sun shines, darkening northern light glooms –
in your substances,
the unconscious eternity wanders.
 
5
 
Like clotted scraps of blood
these words
float before you.
Existence stammers,
only the law is in clear speech.
Yet my diligent organs, born again
day by day, are preparing,
to become silent.
 
But until then they all shout –
You who were chosen from the crowd
of two thousand million,
you are the only one, you tender cradle,
strong grave, living bed –
allow me inside you!...
 
(How high is the morning sky at dawn!
Armies sparkle in their armors.
This great radiance hurts my eyes.
I am lost, I think.
I can hear my heart clatter and beat
above me.)
 
6
 
(Collateral Song)
 
(A train takes me, I go after you,                          
Perhaps today I will find you too,                                           
Perhaps my blazing face will calm,                       
Perhaps, softly, your words will come:                                                      
 
The bath is warm, get in the water!                       
Use the towel to get dry!                            
Meat is frying, ease your hunger!                         
Your bed is right here where I lie.)                                 
 
(1933)
 
 
For My Birthday
  
Thirty-two I have turned today –
this poem by surprise came my way
                             titty
                             ditty:
 
the ultimate gift, with which
at this cafe I astonish
                             myself
                             myself;
 
my thirty-two years have been scattered
two-hundred a month I've never bettered.
                             It's a trend
                             my homeland!
 
I could've become a schoolmaster
instead of a fountainpen jester.
                             needy
                             weeny.
 
But I've gotten expelled, riot act read
at the university in Szeged
                             mean
                             dean.
 
His decision reached me fast and coarse,
my "no father" verse got his curse,
                             he guarded
                             the home hard
 
with drawn swords' scowls
he has summoned my soul's
                             flame
                             and name:
 
 
"You, as long as I have a word,
won't be teaching in this world"
                             mutters
                             and sputters
 
If that's Mr. Antal Horger's pleasure
that our poet shall not study grammar
                             a light
                             delight,
 
'cause it's beyond a high school education
I'll be teaching the whole nation
                             watch me
                             you'll see!
 
 
(1937)


With Pure Heart

Got no father, no mother,
no god, no homeland,
no cradle, no shroud,
no kiss, no lover.
 
Last three days I haven't eaten
neither a lot, nor a morsel,
my twenty years is power,
I am looking for a buyer.
 
If no one wants it,
the devil will take it,
with a pure heart I will plunder,
if need be I will murder.
 
I'll be caught, I'll be gallowed,
with blessed earth I'll be covered,
& death spreading grass will grow,
on my oh, so beautiful heart.
 
(1925)
 

Nothing 
 
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.
Let it be, not to be,
Let it be, not to be –
let's say: Edith.
 
Invisible, yellow little chicken
pecking the stars now.
 
Maybe dawn is breaking, maybe Budapest is on fire,
maybe make-up is melting
on the face of a sweating giantess.
 
Cars murmur, shutters trundle,
seas thunder, people flood.
 
That obnoxious house at the corner makes me angry –
it's like tinea on the face of a child.
 
Where I have just arrived.
either this morning is unknown, or this railway station is unknown.
 
I have no luggage.
I've forgotten something – I wish I could remember.
One: nothing.
Two: nothing.
Three: nothing.
It's just as strange as this railway station,
that there is nothing at all.
 
(1936)


Yellow Grass
 
Yellow grass on the sand,
this wind is a bony, old woman,
the puddle is a nervous cow,
the sea is silent yet tells a tale.
 
I croon my soft inventory.
That peddled coat is my country;
dusk crumbles on the hill;
my heart lacks the will to go on.
 
The coral reef of swarming time,
the dead world, the birch,                                       
the tenement, the woman sparkle
through the flowing blue sky.
 
(1933)

Translated by: Gabor G. Gyukics and Michael Castro

Tags: Attila József