Rudderless (Kormányeltörésben, 1971) is one of the truly great Hungarian poems written by my generation. Yet, it is hardly known by the wider public either in Hungary or internationally. István Domonkos already lived up North with his Swedish wife at the time of writing, making his living as a tennis coach. Ever since, he has exiled himself from the literary life, either of Serbia, Hungary, or Sweden. As Tibor Várady notes, an English translation of the complete poem of 400-odd lines only appeared in 2015 along with translations into nine other languages. We are proud to re-print Owen Good’s excellent version now in the Hungarian Review – perhaps the most powerful record of a linguistically homeless existence, whether as a member of an ethnic minority or as an immigrant.
Dedicated to István Bosnyák
My desperate mind in wind doth waver,
Like an anchorless galley lost o’er sea;
Without the faintest hope of love in sight.
SWEATING SYSTEMS – in capitalist industry the various systems of intensifying labour.
(Handbook of Economics)
The development of society shows that private property is not an eternal category.
(Handbook of Economics)
PROLETARIAT – the class of wage-workers in capitalist society who are deprived of the ownership of means of production, and are therefore forced to sell their labour to the capitalists.
(Handbook of Economics)
POPULATION IMMIGRATION – the migration of certain countries’ citizens into another country for the purpose of permanent or temporary settlement.
(Handbook of Economics)
me being me no speaking magyar living abroad life money language national flag national anthem postage stamp presidents great leaders rummaging for appropriate one wherever i arrive we dying one and all always on the wrong battlefield our open skull the whisk’s handle sticks out proletarians of the world contretarians of the world this being poem words’ great wall of china climbed by death writers publish life’s platitudes bound in human skin: generalissimos of national literati me no liking national dishes’ pungent smell making of abroad portable homeland me going abroad mit work permit in suitcase pork fat big loaf of bread me no seeing new horizon me going abroad traipsing over crisp snow life in minkcoat coming slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders we dying one and all always on the wrong battlefield me being furry critter abroad no string quartets having me take pill me swallowing us ceasing to exist me mixing cards saying oink-oink conjugal bed eating russian-revolution-caviar seeking a what finding a rhyme arhyme arhyme findarhyme being thirty years old putting on show by day groping in the evening by night on snow-white sheet life coming through pointed trees slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders words’ great wall of china climbed by death me writing letter home mama me being disease carrier me infecting no speaking touching me surviving doctrines ideas regimes state’s funeral me bearing cross being revolution’s alchemist plastic flower buttonhole eight years of elementary school finding gig abroad magic bomb curved-barrel rifle shooting at dead king no knickers on my soul revolution clamour crowds words beards blood in tasteful packaging to be freeze dried no taking away samson’s strength
in the rainbow-coloured north marx coming white gloves slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders we dying one and all always on the wrong battlefield me getting letter have to get egri out uncle vili gellért’s son fifi the albanian leaving ma pops fell off bicycle ambulance taking him away market every wednesday priest coming collecting tax washing shirt drawers hoeing grave no daring close eyes hearing mouse rustle
me standing on marble pedestal life standing on tiptoes slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders me going abroad mit work permit in suitcase pork fat big loaf of bread me going shop on foot in shop being dolores she being spanish she sitting at till having big breasts soft dough on leg fine moustache
sweet smell red nails me being brave enough in front of me standing two greeks they buying bread soap onion in shorter man’s hair hanging straw much pressure in my pants pressure an illegal me being stiff
me standing in front of till blind life coming incognito slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders our open skull the whisk’s handle sticks out me walking street in crombie ir flying whatchamacallit-bird pedigree dog sitting post me smelling thingy-flowers’ ohne-smell me thinking me no going home grabbing hoe raising living standard getting from spine bent line graph me getting accustomed capitalist working discipline having two free days nightmare of dismissal sitting assembly line it being my profit me acquiring huge wealth life at horse races with binocular strap slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders life’s platitudes bound in human skin writers publish: of national literati generalissimos me going library playing chess there sitting pavlik him being czech him castling long after russian settlement marcuse sartre godard morris laing russell nietzsche kepler galileo newton einstein poincaré lukács marshall mcluhan pavlik running mouth me getting checkmate king plus two pawns lenin being emigrant marx being emigrant joyce musil mann brecht bartók picasso chagall marx him will be grieved wife being called jenny rilke baudelaire rimbaud all roaming
me living abroad on beans life in front of chemist’s offhand slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders me going abroad mit work permit in suitcase pork fat big loaf of bread me going dentist him being herr schmidt him showing photograph black and white
defending bridge in helmet hansi dying poor man stomach no liking nail lead nettle earthworms latrine-banana herr schmidt loving italian pizza in front of patient no being secret going on holiday adriatic loving skirt garlic loving fat woman loving behind loving in front death coming from the east
me coward quaking a lot in waiting room life with fly swatter slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders words’ great wall of china is climbed by death me reversing on street buying hotdog price being pittance in trousers knee beating my staff walking dolores on corner standing a magyar all morning him being fugitive king when he’s sauced him serving five years prison looking in mirror sun moon hanging tisza river bend every morning guard saying you be hanging soon him hanging abroad on foot on train night time afraid wood whispering in window him cutting down tree nature-lovers coming writing article article coming on last page him no being any old chap him coming psychiatrist
me hanging in eternity on wet string life seeing stars on my forever swollen purple soles
me being living abroad life money language national flag national anthem postage stamp presidents great leaders rummaging out appropriate wherever I arrive psychiatrist saying relaks relaks magyar no thinking what will no thinking what was going alps going tyrol going copacabana hawaii going soirees balls still living in new guinea cannibals going brazil going sahara moscow ankara going on streets carrying sign being exciting march provoking passers-by police waving red kerchief being kommunista promising much amusement torture debate being old-fashioned proletár patch sewing maxi coat eating meatless stew in cinema in public space groping in secret warm silk when nobody is looking stuffing chocolate mouth me walking with sign on back life with rubber baton coming slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders we dying one and all always on the wrong battlefield psychiatrist saying sleep sleep no being enemy no being whispering window tree no being cell guard hanging tisza river bend no being magyar buying dog buying going spanish mallorca eating watching bull smelling mimosa eating salty fish newspaper no reading supper supper vesper vesper sleepdust sleepdust revolutionromp amusementwar corpseauction bonemonger allocation confiscation nationalisation bankruptcy internal market(soul) working off lockout
me getting away scot-free life honorarially coming slapping me in the face
me being presidents great leaders me no seeing nowhere limit me seeing new horizon me walking on street seeing herr hallon walking dog on far side him coming far off india being drought animal perishing person lying dead mama well jumping evening papa going pilgrim him going abroad being doctor being villa pool money water milk oil honey him mama well jumping evening him mama eight children all dying burn ash ganges him no india him new name new passeport him getting telegram papa burn ash ganges him wife buchenwald him wife nerve liver heart lung him wife deck-chair dressing gown him wife kommunista doctor of physics him wife him wife
me listening him preach life slowly climbing up flagpole flapping there a lot
me being presidents great leaders me going abroad mit work permit in suitcase pork fat big loaf of bread me being rudderless this no being poem me imitating poem
poem being puddle sitting in it being sponge ruining new clothes in puddle finding many fat maggots for proletariátus proletariátus casting hook into future catching bathroom poem being asking: can tiny mouse carry whole house on his back when hiding away in hole? me two children me chainsaw forest chopping tree me mushroom me bird me many kinds wild game many kinds object name no knowing afternoon dark tired evening heavy piss-up woman sheet bed clitoris placing finger no thinking kollektív no thinking privát
Translated by Owen Good