POINTS OF CONTACT
That morning whilst leaving for work,
as I stumbled with my heavy brief-case
whilst the puppy was running in circles,
rummaging, dodging all over the place
playfully between my foot and the door
the door and the briefcase, the briefcase and my foot
it the space between my foot and my foot
stuck in this situation
I crushed his paw in the security door
he went on licking it for ages long into the afternoon
but I didn’t see that
you told me about it later.
As always you got up at dawn that day,
first you walked the dog,
afterwards you hurried the infernal morning sprint
each bag received its snack
a play-lunch for every taste
in each school-bag, exercise-books, books, cheques,
declarations, signatures in each notebook,
in an envelope just enough money for the excursion
a child’s body in each overcoat
and now collapsed on the table you were asleep
when the dog howled you jumped up and ran outside
you heard me when I furiously banged the door
you saw my shape though the glass panes of the security door
you didn’t know what was going on
as neither did I,
you said something but the door swallowed your words
however I waited, perhaps you would open it,
would come towards me asking me to explain
what I had left for you on the other side of the glass panes.
But no. All day long it stayed in my head
as I turned the steering wheel
leaving behind me the neighbouring hills,
meadows, yellow trees, heaps of manure,
tangled haystacks, hay wagons shuffling
since time immemorial in the fields
forcing themselves deeper and deeper into the earth,
that’s what went through my mind whilst I was teaching
hiding in the space behind the faces of the students,
now you think I slammed the door on the dog’s paw on purpose
just because it’s yours,
it’s you who wanted it, you who dreamed of it since childhood,
it’s you who looks after it, feeds it, trains it,
rewards it, hugs it, picks up its droppings
with a plastic bag in the garden, it’s your voice it really obeys
I was thinking more and more that you believed it was on your foot
that I really wanted to close the door,
that I wanted you to be hurt, to cry aloud,
in my head I blamed you, I blamed myself.
I knew it would be enough to pick up the receiver
Whilst the accordion-like cord swayed in the air,
than to drag myself around all day with this
duffle-bag full of invisible bricks,
but I also knew that the receiver was full of
a heavy load of mysterious metals,
that it would be more difficult to lift than anything else in the world.
That bag was full of stupid wishes for vengeance, of masochistic sorrows,
I implore you to believe only a small part of this was true,
even though I didn’t say it, not true,
the bag was full of our two disassociated miseries
until evening its weight crushed my bones, my tendons, my skin, so much
that I was going to fall apart if I couldn’t press against you
inside the security door with its panes of glass
and that the power would leave my body
if I couldn’t find a meeting-point for my mouth
on your neck, on your nose, on your forehead, on your mouth,
on your closed eyelids.
Translated by Elaine Lewis
AFTER ALL, ONE HAS TO EAT
(Enni azért kell)
I take a seat in the restaurant,
settling myself comfortably at one of the tables
with a chequered tablecloth.
I haven’t decided what to eat
but trust my lucky star is out today.
I start to read the menu,
when all at once my nostrils twitch:
I catch a scent of game.
I carefully fish out my sawn-off shotgun from my carrier bag
and, without a sound, take cover behind the table
and place myself in a firing position.
And indeed, drifting, unsuspectingly,
amid the passers-by, sniffing nervously, a stag appears.
A splendid specimen,
to make a guess from the tines on his antlers
he’s in the prime of life,
he’ll make a spectacular trophy.
I take aim at length,
wait until the young mother with the pram
and the loving couple
who are ambling dreamily hand in hand move out of frame,
then I squeeze the trigger. A superb shot,
in my imagination I enthusiastically shake my own hand,
the quarry’s legs buckle, the eyes mist over,
and eventually the magnificent male topples over like a sack.
A lady pensioner jumps aside with a loud grumbling
and angrily starts lashing out at the body
with her rubber-tipped walking stick
as the helpless animal had all but knocked her over as well.
With a Redskin hop, skip and jump I throw myself
on the still twitching game, thrust my knife into it,
and resting a hand on its flank,
wait until all muscular tension has ebbed from its limbs
and the hunk of flesh is finally lifeless.
I drag the body over to a drain,
make a neat job of bleeding it dry,
then set about expertly skinning it
since that is best done while the carcass is still warm.
It shucks its skin compliantly like overalls,
I toss the entrails away into an orange street litter bin
and roughly cut the meat up.
I stutter apologetically to a small, trim dame.
Shaking her head, she casts an eye over my arms,
blood up to my elbows, as if I were a naughty boy
for playing in the dirt yet again.
I shrug my shoulders in embarrassment;
what am I supposed to do,
after all, one has to eat, doesn’t one?
In response to my question the little dame
pulls out a couple of paper handkerchiefs from her handbag,
a fragrance of verbena wafts over.
I make a lousy job of mopping off the sticky blood,
I beckon to the waiter to send out a trolley from the kitchen,
and while they wheel the meat in
I check the menu for a vegetable dish to go with it.
Meanwhile I keep one eye open
for a cow among the passers-by and flex my fingers,
warming them up to do some milking;
I’ll need that later in my coffee.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
GRANNY IN THE PICTURES
(Nagyi a képeken)
I regularly show my friends
pictures of my Gran.
Ever since she has lived with us,
I have spent whole days
delighting in her bits of dottiness,
and I constantly take snaps of her,
from every possible angle
and in every possible situation,
then I have the nerve
to show them off to all and sundry.
It’s childish of me, I know;
I know people laugh at me behind my back
for doing it, but I just can’t help it.
Look here! Look how comic Gran is when she eats!
Smears it all over herself!
Her clothes get covered in cocoa;
she’ll spit out a huge jet of tomato soup
all over the floor.
Ever since she worked out how to do it,
there’s no stopping her. Isn’t that charming?
And it‘s sweet the way she’s
quite capable of turning the place upside down
in hunting for some old paper or other.
She’s so feather-brained
we have our work cut out clearing up after her!
This one’s of granny in the bathtub.
She cacked her sanitary towel
so she had to be scrubbed;
a real bunny rabbit, the way she’s goggling!
Mind you, she always looks like then
when she isn’t wearing her specs.
Yes, that’s her false teeth on the side of the tub.
Such a scamp when she’s smiling without the teeth in.
She talks, of course—all kinds of delightful stuff.
She calls cars limousines, trams electric tramcars,
talks about hansom cabs, bloomers and pomaded hair
—that’s her vocabulary, those are the sorts of words she uses.
It’s her way of explaining
what to her is the incomprehensible world of grown-ups.
It’s such an odd feeling for someone
to be so dependant on me that it takes up my days.
Now I can’t even imagine what it will be like
when she pops off, ten or fifteen years from now.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
The other day, while surfing on the internet at work
as a bit of a break, more or less by chance
I came across a very interesting home page.
My pulse beat harder as I clicked in turn on the pictures.
Photos of female brains of every conceivable description.
Brains of secretaries, waitresses, schoolgirls, nurses,
schoolmistresses, tractor-driving girls, housewives.
Female brains covered by mysterious satin and silk veils
or palm-sized stretch material, at times with no more than
the curves of the convolutions being hinted
at through the fabric, at other times the forms being spread
quite nakedly before one.
Brains in the light and the shade,
on the sea shore and in the kitchen,
in alcoves, in the bathroom and in the office,
in misty art photographs, poor-quality amateur snapshots
or razor-sharp exposures.
In some cases two or three
almost throbbing veined hemispheres,
higgledy-piggledy, in alluring poses;
in others, together with male brains,
just in the act of exchanging ideas,
brazenly, in full public view.
I could not breathe, my throat was dry,
my pulse raced, beads of sweat formed on my brow.
I heard a noise so, hands trembling,
I hastily closed the window lest
anyone should catch me.
Meanwhile it flashed through my mind
that the other day my male colleagues made mention,
with great sniggers, of there being a home page
where they put female souls on display,
in full colour, so it was said, mauve-coloured,
each one like the outspread wings of a butterfly.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
I was late for work,
I had lost sight of time a bit while
having a drink with the lads,
but never mind, you’ve got to relax sometimes,
I mean I’ve got obligations, for sure,
but then am I not a free,
adult member of the human race, sort of, or what?
The staff meeting was in progress by then,
with the boss in full swing,
he’s the big cheese at times like this and he can certainly bang on,
but the moment he has to account for himself t
o the wise guys at the top his self-assurance shrinks in a trice.
I didn’t know what exactly they were on about,
but I cut in and asked him
straight out if he had done his homework properly,
or was he just shooting his mouth,
at which he turned crimson and began to stutter.
It was clear as daylight that I was right again,
the whole thing was just a bluff on his part.
So I launched into a little patter about
if he went on like this and didn’t shape up,
the whole firm would be down the pan
and he would be looking for a job
as a road sweeper like everyone else,
and only there,
when he was up to his eyes in rubbish,
might the thought hit him that
maybe I had been trying to help,
but it would be too late by then.
He got quite alarmed and quickly handed over to someone else
and sat there nibbling at his nails at great length,
one at a time, from the little pinkie over to the thumb.
In the end I told him
that if he didn’t leave off I would rap his knuckles,
because that isn’t the sort of thing one does in public,
to say nothing of all the who knows
what gunk he was picking up from under his nails,
a fine little infection,
you could be sure of that, just wait and see.
He retorted that people swallow loads of rubbish every year,
but I cut him off coldly saying that if he really wanted it,
then I would order a load of rubbish for lunch,
but in that case he would have to eat the lot.
Anyway, if I caught him at it again,
I’d rap him on the knuckles.
To start with he didn’t dare to chew them,
but I watched him out of the corner of the eye,
gleefully observed him as he slowly forgot himself,
and when, as if by reflex, he raised a hand to his mouth,
I jubilantly whacked him a resounding slap.
He made such a dejected face that I almost felt sorry for him,
but I fought back the impulse,
because he was only a boss, after all,
and I’ve got principles, I can’t allow it,
given that I have a responsibility
not just to myself but to him as well.
In the lunch break
I caught sight of him at one of the tables,
a plate of spinach steaming in front of him,
that was on the day’s menu,
but he was just poking his knife in it
and it was obvious he had not touched it.
I was willing to bet that he wanted to take it back uneaten
and then slurp back an expensive cup of cappuccino
in the refreshment room.
I knew what I had to do,
so I stole behind him and started to shovel the green mush into him,
hissing into his ear that he should bear in mind
just how many people had put their work into it,
planting it, watering it, hoeing it, picking it in blazing sunlight and driving rain,
even grinding it up, but here was he,
not giving a damn for all that diligence,
on top of which spinach contained a whole raft of mineral goodies,
a true blessing for the organism.
He managed to make a total mess of his brand-new Pierre Cardin suit,
we’ll have to have words about that later,
but in the end he choked and spluttered that it had gone up his nose,
he would rather eat the lot on his own.
I inspected him with contentment as he sat there,
his face red as a lobster,
the fay droplets of his tears dripping into the food
as he spooned it in with obvious disgust.
I was filled with the elation of victory,
the remainder of the working day zipped by as in a dream.
I even managed to nip off a little early,
because I was rushing home
as I’d promised my son
that I would give him a report about dinosaurs,
and if I were a minute late or hadn’t one my homework,
he would give me a good dressing-down
and dock some of my pocket money at the end of the month.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
I was just in the middle of eating a gyros,
my leisurely steps carrying me along in the crowd,
a black computer bag dangling on one shoulder.
When I’m in town, in between two errands.
I often choose this none-too-elegant
but, for all that, more informal and busy way of eating.
The eyes of oncoming passers-by slips to the food in my hand
and they swallow mightily.
At times the juice may trickle out of the gyros,
so it’s best to take care of what I’m wearing.
The sauce may sometimes dribble down my cheeks,
and if I take a look around,
I encounter looks of disapproval.
Besides which, it’s a little tricky to fish for a hankie in the pocket
when the hands are covered in sauce.
That day, though, the cellophane bag
into which my gyros had been packed was well sealed,
so I tucked away and cast an indolent look over the crowd.
Ruddy-faced alcoholics panting in a search for the first open bar.
Old dame who must have lived through at least one world war
had their heads hung low,
carrying a shopping bag as they tried to get through life.
This here’s a little boy tugging at Mummy’s hand
as the lady is preoccupied by talking to someone else;
if he goes on like this, he’ll soon wrench free.
Over there is an artist of some sort,
a half-wit in a jazzy suit and a colourful titfer,
his beard braided,
carrying on his shoulders an enormous picture frame that
almost reaches the ground, a faded canvas under his arm.
The frame is empty, there is no canvas in it;
all it shows is the reality behind it.
Just as much as the rectangle will cut out of the life in the street.
The artist type plays on this.
He experiments with positioning the frame around the alcoholic,
the old dame, the chatty Mum,
and finally the little boy,
who has at last succeeded in breaking loose
and right now is staring at a computer game in a shop window.
The artist type hasn’t noticed that I’m watching what he does.
He steals behind the child, slightly adjusts the frame and then,
when he feels that the figure of the boy
staring into the shop window exactly fits the frame,
he quickly grabs the faded canvas,
spreads it over the picture,
and hastily steps back.
I can follow his departing figure for a while in the crowd,
but it is then that I become aware of the Mummy’s shriek of alarm.
She and her interlocutor question the passers-by
as to whether they’ve seen the kid anywhere.
He was here just a moment ago, several of them say.
Not seen any child at all, say some others.
There is no-one standing by the shop window.
I take a pensive bite from my gyros.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
JOURNEY TO THE MOON IN FIVE MINUTES
(Öt perc alatt a Holdra)
The mere five-minute trip from the local council’s
technical department up the hill
across the small bridge – on the right the medieval
ruin, on the left the college, in one hand
my briefcase, in the other the trash container –
The latter a brand new greasy, matt-finished item,
the scars of diecasting still fresh on its body,
its lid rattling insistently all the way,
who’d have thought I’d have my own house with a garden,
and even a trash container in the garden, i lug around
the proofs of my proprietorial status, a heavy
and more to the point unwieldy load, it bashes into my legs,
I hold it away from myself a little, so it puts my forearm
to the test
Meanwhile piling up before my mind’s eye is
all the trash that we’ll stuff into it
in the coming years, an imposing heap,
almost impossible to process
I make my way up the hill with this cylindrical
matt black object, I take it up, it takes
me up, just as a certain hollow cannonball took
its travelers to the moon in that Verne novel
English translation by David Hill
AROUND US THE SUMMER
(Körül a nyár)
Around us the summer like a throbbing wound
and she trudges along fences, trees
The sun checks out its masks
on her face
You can’t speak about old age –
when you use words, it’s not the same
Grandmother bakes the sponge
she washes the dishes with
Eats the flowers from a vase
Her swollen feet, her clothes with their sour odor
Anecdotes But her reality doesn’t shrink
She is the only reality
One time she turned at the corner,
which was bathed in summer,
and the still is closing in on us
The grindstone of light
shoots sparks on her face
THEY BOUGHT APPLES
They bought many apples
to last all winter
Occasionly they’d sift through them
They cast out the rotten ones
and consumed them first
by cutting out the swiftly fermenting
By the time that bunch was eaten
they had to sift through again
They did nothing else
but eat rotten apples
throughout the winter
The question rolled among the bushes
like a rubber ball
Winters pass over it
We discover it by chance
and if the scythe, the pitch fork,
the rake did not puncture it,
then we can turn it, knead it
You can’t get rid of the indentation
It disperses into four or five parts
Then suddenly assembles again
and is exactly the size
of an enigma –
neither smaller or larger
THE OTHER SIDE
Someone cleans the glass
on the other side of the window
First it becomes even more blurred
The image becomes smudged
The dirt as a coating
Then things become clearer
I’m the one who sees,
he is the wiew,
he who has been looking for me until now
or was I looking for him?
The guest fell asleep in his chair
Dad was talking up a storm
First he didn’t even notice
Then there was silence The children
suddenly attacked the sandwiches, the cake
Mom ran out to the foyer
There she laughed with tears rolling down
her cheecks Then everything vanished:
the food, the dishes, parents, the chikdren
No one walked through the livingroom anymore
Once in a while somebody tiptoed through
for a record or a book
The guest sprawled on the chair
like a bare Christmas tree
Under the guest, shadows fell, the needles
They didn’t move him as if he were furniture,
a statue or a piano
They swept around him,
tousled his hair with a feather duster
Later someone must have pushed him in a corner
because he got up from here
While dusting off his jacket
he walked out from among the new tenants
who had rented the place with him in it
Somebody stands behind you,
sucks air through his teeth
if you drink another mug of beer
or if you write another line
He checks his watch,
waits for you in the foyer
without taking off his coat
He refuses to touch tea, drinks or cake
No thanks, he never orders these
But if they force these things on him
he swallows them
as if they were sawdust
or spent oil
He can’t wait for the film to end
At a concert he nervously taps on the armrest
In the evening when you’re still busy
he spies on you in his pajamas
He wants you to finish up
But when you go to bed
he turns on the lights in your brain
Begins to read from a notebook
the things that happened to you
and he tries in a sour mood to guess
what will happen tomorrow
in several versions
Translated by Nicholas Kolumban
As if a little boy
sees an undressing woman
through the evening’s aquarium window
a tormenting pain escorts him
in his groin
Sometimes a burning, spreading, joyful
feeling loosens a caul inside me
which before was a stretching blister
Or a mood jerks me up
like salt in an open wound
I hold the snatched note
long and stubborn
And stare into my own deepening well
toppling on its edge
Dizziness might lure me
as if a slowly
changing terrain of a running dog’s belly
or a stairway, among oblique, scanty
sunrays, cigarette smoke
whirling, gathering, dispersing
Under my deeds of acting
the ancient soul of indifference
IN THE VALLEY
A needle shaded net
holds up a crowd of pinetrees
Somewhere-sometime, under a loud flowing waterfall
a bubble circles
like a prisoner of the bayshore
And now after washing your body
your bury your face in the breeze’s clean,
cool canvas current
– which flutters this way from the water –
No clods lie under soles
neither gnarled nor smooth roots
neither the mud nor your weight forces you to stay
still you remain on the road
Later the walls of the house stand around you,
and your moonshine engraved glass
and the crystals of the water inside,
the clothes crackle on your shoulders,
your shoulders crackle under the shirt
Above the oilstove you see
your staggering soul
Translated by Michael Castro and Gábor G. Gyukics