From the Hungarian of Sándor Földalatti

John Glenday

(I) Blue

Blue: sweet colour of far away,
the colour of farewell, the colour
I remember from your eyes.

A childhood blue once trembled
where the city stutters
into dusty scrub and empty

marshalling yards.
The last grim veil of innocence
was blue.

If I were asked to construct
a world that wasn't there,
I'd make its every surface

scrupulously blue
and you, the only

(II) Today, I am a New Man

Today, I am a new man,
a stranger in the town that bore me.

How simple it is to become a ghost —
just one word, one gesture, and we slip

through the latticework of other people's lives
as easily as water through a stone.

Gradually, my heart sheds its weight,
this once familiar rock has hatched a swallow.

Just for today, if I were to pass myself in the street,
I wouldn't even raise my hat, or say hello.

(III) A White Moth Falls, Dying

A white moth falls, dying,
like a torn scrap of paper,

or paper burned to ash,
or dogged summer snow,

or a petal from a mountain rose
discarded by a love-sick village girl,

or a diploma of little worth,
that holds not a single word,

being the blank sum of all words in itself.
Look, poor thing, even as it passes away

it tries to read, opening and closing
the empty pages of its life.

(IV) How Hot this Summer Wind Blows

How hot this summer wind blows
trailing the scent of somewhere far away:
the smell of the beech forests, of the great inland sea,
of glass-white Siberia or farthest America —
that fictitious country, guarded by the blind giant
Freedom, with its green hands and white, white heart.
The crickets trill their dusky lullabies,
the willows by the roadside droop and doze.
How hot the summer wind blows through me,
so why do I hug myself this way,
and why do I tremble so?

(V) Silence the Colour of Snow

Silence the colour of snow,
settles against everything we love —
the late, startled flowers, the roadside stones —
all edges softened, all calamities blurred.

Why do you accuse me of never talking with you?
You know, they used to say that
if all the tongues in the world were stilled at once,
their common silence would translate itself

to a snow that even the summer winds
could never drive away. Hush now, not another word.
Look! High over the frozen manger,
my answer hangs and falls, that six fingered star.

(VI) Remember those Wild Apples

Remember those wild apples
we would gather in the autumn, stained
with a half-faced blush, or the viridescent
shadow of a vanished leaf?
They clung to the early cold like a young girl's heart.

Grandfather said they were all seeded
from that first tree God espaliered in Paradise;
its fruit so bitter, even Adam felt compelled
to spread softened honey on the flesh
before he could savour exile, and the world.

Author Note

Sándor Földalatti was born in Budapest on March 29th 1952. Since graduating from the University of Pezs with a combined Honours Degree in Fruit Husbandry and Applied Transport Mechanics, he has worked as a ticket collector on the Budapest underground. He is the author of two collections of poems: The Straw Clock (Sobor Press, 1989) and A Bicycle of Feathers (Ferihegy Books, 1995). He lives in a one bedroomed flat in central Budapest with his German wife Erika, five children, a large black dog and a three legged cat.

The translator would like to thank Janos Kukorelly, Director of Traffic Flow with the Hungarian State Subterranean Railways, for providing the literal translations from which these English versions derive.