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.

Gy. K.

RUDDERLESS

István Domonkos

Dedicated to István Bosnyák

My desperate mind in wind doth waver,
Like an anchorless galley lost o’er sea;
Rudderless,

Without the faintest hope of love in sight.

Bálint Balassi

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

DJUPHULT, 1971

Translated by Owen Good

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