Translated from the Hungarian by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri


Blue-black, the night sky.

Bushes stand guard at the roadside.

The trees’ chained shadows bay

like far-off dogs.

Life sparkles on the world’s

big blooms like jewelled wine.

Gaunt angels glide; with a sponge

they dry it up.

In the sky the moon reddens,

smaller than yesterday’s, paler.

Some light since then has been stolen

out of my eyes.

I sit calmly, without tears,

on a stone by the Mount of Olives:

it is not worth it to rush

to the graveyard.


What have you done that this is now your lot?

Between four walls a creaky, crippled chair,

a table with inkwells in it, and four drawers,

a pen, an inkwell, and sheets of paper strewn

over the floor: sorrowful thoughts and troubles.

The current comes from afar by way of entangled

invisible wires, a circuitry of tension

in table and chair, as also in your body,

burning and pulling every tiny part of it –

electricity, murderous and unknown.

It gives you a headache, makes your fingers thin,

it has broken the light that is in your eyes

and, because of it, the young smile under your nose

is growing old. It’s an electric chair,

a scaffold, where to die is bitter and sweet

at the same time. Yes, an electric chair,

that kills you slowly with insidious force

as the years pass. Slowly and yet surely.

Out there the bushes burn with a green flame,

yellow primroses wink like wicks afloat,

a damp fragrance makes the siskin drunk,

wind touches the pussy-willow with soft fingers

and clouds keep running east and west like kids.

As for you, you sit there in your cell,

doomed by some grim sentence that was pronounced

according to the letter of the law,

until your head drops down upon the table,

your hair. All tangled, mingling with the flow

from an upturned inkwell.

Out there spring will come, merry and mindless,

when the executioner gives the judge

his brief report that it’s been carried out.

(For George Gömöri’s essay on Jenő Dsida’s life and work and for biographical data on George Gömöri, see our July issue.)

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