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15 March 2019

Four Transylvanian Poems



(A szegény erdei rokon, 1984)



1. The poor relation from the woods stands at the door.

2. He has an archaic stare.

3. “thanks,” he mutters bashfully.

4. “… back home? Well ... nowadays even the salt...

what I mean is, not even ...”

5. “And the bears, do they still come around?”

6. The relation has an archaic laugh.

7. “Sure enough ... they do.”

8. “You can have these shoes. They’ll help against

the bears. And we don’t need them any more.”

9. The poor relation, awkwardly, like a child:

10. “God bless you for your kindness.”

11. “Dear, get him some salt, too.”

12. “Well, God bless.”

13. The relation from the woods departs.

14. “I see they still know how to speak, back there.

15. That’s quite something, how well they can ... yes, well enough.

16. That they still know how.”



Static in the stethoscope.

The leg is kicking, cut off at the knee. Noise in the listening device,

the horse is silent in the static-storm, blood is pouring out of the stethoscope and the wintry sky is shredded into snow.



The relations at the edge of the woods.

Wrinkled and agitated, they’re questioning

and asserting something all day long,

saying it and asking it over and over,

but nobody can understand a word they say;

the stars keep blinking but they too get it wrong.



instant photo at the münich railroad station

(gyorsfénykép a müncheni pályaudvaron, 1982)


quietly your picture dries on you

while the red light is still lit


and you hear a stifled voice,

scratchy from explaining it:


bitte die fotos trocken lassen

so lange rote lampe brennt


slowly you dry on yourself



you get flushed to the roots

and the hair bristles on your back because you hear inside you

the station master’s crack:




The Kolozsvár Horror

(Kolozsvári horror, 1983)


On a November night; worrying about a

police raid on my apartment, I tossed

a cassette tape in the river. Your voice was

on it; you probably know which recording

it was.


For a long time afterwards, every time I

crossed that bridge over the Szamos

I could hear you calling from the water.


(Kolozsvár – Cluj in Romanian – is a city on the Szamos River in Transylvania. Translator’s note.)




... and those who didn’t

( .. s akiket nem, 1986)


1. No one was required to partake of the lotus.

2. It was only to one’s advantage to do so.

3. Those who didn’t were looked upon with suspicion.

4. And, of course, there was nothing else to eat.

5. So more and more died of moral shock.

6. The lotus stew was in great demand.

7. And so was the cheap lotus brandy, especially by the morally naked.

8. Oblivion, the old underground sin, raised its head above the grass.

9. In the cafeteria there was one person who pushed the lotus plate away.

10. By then no one paid attention to him.

11. “Moral midgets,”

he muttered to himself,

marked themselves with mortal birth defects.”


Translations by Paul Sohar


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