Dedicated to Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the occasion of his acceptance and subsequent rejection of the 2012 Janus Pannonius Poetry Prize awarded by the Hungarian PEN Club.
This is a five-star poem de luxe.
Smoking is not allowed anywhere inside.
They’ve given Bob Dylan and Ginsberg
the bum’s rush through the back door.
Singing though is permitted:
we've lost it all
yet standing tall
Honey flows through the cavernous.
Consciousness sits in club chairs.
Decided to stop
They’re marching Caucasian rams
in the shade of solar flares.
Even Tandori is getting bored with the xylophonephobic era,*
yet he cheerfully keeps lecturing about existence and the end thereof.
Why keep the universe on leash,
let it be the other way around,
give me something sweet,
I’m never replete.
The sky of the eye can house
a tiny mouse
Here only monomaniacal souls
they get built into walls and battlefields
fantasy can have feast.
What about the specters? ask some in shock,
their genes need to be recoded,
no one wants this old malarkey,
peace is the key,
let it build a crest, don the interest;
what kind of salt can call a halt?
(here it can make a cult!)
Go and keep fighting!
Uovo strapazzato is the kitchen’s hallmark.
The scent draws Manzonis and Flauberts
But what about the specters? ask some in shock.
And what about the rest? What were they doing?
Resting their behinds in the library, reading Steinbeck,
“I can tell you folks are not from Oklahoma.
I mean no offence, but you sound a little funny.”**
or perhaps Móricz.
“Those little rascals
extended out a plank,
and on its very edge
they made him stand.”
“No good, you crossed out another word.
You’re writing a poem, aren’t you?”***
and it amused him that smoking was banned in the smoking room
(and so was feeling cold in June).
Whoever tires of the peace below
can run upstairs and
watch a CNN show,
on the chairs coats hang,
a bottle of wine, 2010 vintage,
throws open the window, raindrops teem
in the room, they seem
to sound like Morse code on the floor,
with such force
that they awaken solitude
(if in the mood).
From this angle you can’t see Dante’s
house of birth,
pointless, ten years under renovation,
(a net around its girth)
Late memory. The breeze of evenings and air-cooled trains
flits on fragile wings back into the past, lovely oblivion.
We owe you ideals and blood. The quiet misgivings of
our upturned faces, on their ruins snow-covered joy.
That’s how we dream up morning, standing on its peak,
faint and scrawny ray, light stumbling on reason’s lap.
The evening is memory, the air-cooled train of clouds afloat.
greened by magnolia.
On the foothills of Torres del Paine you take a rest.
The constant silence will grow into momentum.
You document the excursion with photographs.
Dagger-thorns on the bushes of dreams.
(There smoking is not allowed either.)
What if not allowed,
nothing is allowed,
neither this nor another way
pointless to protest,
it’ll be like that or not even that, no other way,
politics does not lord it over you,
the word falls under the barricades of the spirit,
János Csezmiczei was right when he sang:
“I was sent in my growing years by the land
of Pannonia where the Drava river cuts
across rich farm fields with slowing swirls
to melt its waves and name into the Danube.”****
The tree of humanism has grown tall
in the Hungarian land of Hunnia,
and so has Hungarian poetry,
here we’re sitting still,
although beat up badly,
God lights up our name, always will.
translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar
*Dezső Tandori, Hungarian poet at the forefront of innovation
**John Steinbeck, East of Eden
***Zsigmond Móricz, Be Good unto Death
****Janus Pannonius (originally János Cseymiczei, Hungarian Latin poet, 1434-1472), Guarino-panegyricus