17 May 2017

In the Morning the Hangman

In the morning the hangman took your measurements

then cursed ‘cause he got it wrong,

and hanged the kid from the neighbouring cell

the one they brought in last night,

who screamed all night, pounded on the door

that he wanted to live, threw up on his bunk,

passed out in the end, they dumped

a bucket of water on him to help him come to,

dragged him out to the gallows,

half-conscious, his legs couldn’t carry him,

silence, just the thuds of boots kicking.


The fat’s crackling in the guardroom,

the warder’s cooking his breakfast: meat

with garlic. You hear the hearse, they

open the iron gate. You peek out.

It’s left. In the evening they slap you in irons.

Half-portion tomorrow. Day after tomorrow dark.

You’ll endure. You don’t have a choice:

Betrayal, or the promised rope.

The sun shines in through the wire screen.

A quiet rustle. The guard watches you long and hard.

They knew for certain that they will break you,

You know for certain that never.

The peal of a kettle. They bring in breakfast.

You bite voraciously into the freshly baked bread.

And you recall your hearing is today,

by the Chain Bridge. And you don’t care.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

HUNGARIAN REVIEW is published by BL Nonprofit Kft.
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