Tuesday , May 21 2024
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Hungarian Poetry Cafe: Péter Závada reading a collection of his poems

Celebrating Hungary’s National Poetry Day on 11th April 2020 with up and coming, inspirational, young Hungarian poets. Join us to listen to their captivating author readings – in English!
Péter Závada reading his poems “The Forgiveness of Sins”, “The Visit”, “Costa Calma” and “Portakabins” / All poems translated by Márk Baczoni



The noise of the cleaning machines is like that
of the men in the confessional come by bus from town.
What if they stopped talking one after the other
eventually, they would make a chorus of silence.

There’s a few split seconds of delay
between my right eye blinking and my left
that makes for interference, and with time
the piers of the bridges in my mouth loosen.

The apsis closes over me like the shell of a husk.
My doubt is the axis around which this temple revolves.
That which I have never confessed piles up inside me
nearing, but never reaching, the point of being said.



These words, too, we have now threshed
the treasured fibrous wheat of thought
and what was left, at the end of that,
rotted anyway
as it does every winter.

You can feel the warmth of
the stables-cum-summer kitchen in your bones
but who knows who’s cooking here, the soup is cold,
and you were far too liberal with the salt
and tallow.

The leaves of the trees have gone black:
ruined teeth in the snowstorm’s mouth.
And the branches of our disquiet are too thick and dark
to let anything we could call consolation
shine through them.



Running into the main chance but stopping short
your stiffness hesitantly toying,
as the markers, over-ripe premisses
and the contours of the tidal bulges

What makes shrubs good also makes them bad:
they block the talk of what goes on behind,
the balcony and its garish parasol are proofs
of a boast drifted onto the tip of the tongue.

To the left, a bin, some plastic bottles
carefully chucked down beside it. But the moral of this day
is still that global capitalism has not overcome
the class struggle, merely turned it into a climate emergency.

When the ends of the screaming curl,
like a bit of ribbon someone’s run
the blade of their scissors over.
When the plane becomes a solid body,
the way time passes over a cube.



The routine of portakabins, metal fences
has dissolved into the disinfectant white of waiting rooms,
contoured reception desks, hospital-green sofas. What, before,
filled me with satisfaction, has now birthed
a siege of discomforts, and habit
has been replaced by a sort of determined
stubbornness, though as plans go, I would hardly call it

It was clear: if I carelessly give way to what
by its very nature crops up as temptation,
then a single rash decision can bring with it
a whole caravan of consequences.
In the interests of the goal, only a resilient background
could ensure the ideal circumstances.

I was hard-headed, at long last, determined, I knew
that if I grabbed that door handle like the butt of
a pistol and pushed down, the room would explode
into the darkness: I step out, and immediately start
gaining mass, drawn towards the geometric centre of the forest,
memorable cracks radiating out, branchstill
the nakedness of noise.

Only I can be the hero of my poem
and this upside-down glass
on the chipboard table: furrowed alienness.
Or that layer of dust on the tomato, the
brownish, overripe spots of the peach
as they spread out in rings, like saltmarks
the bright green burgeoning mould.

Caring is what I do every day,
and that has nothing to do with
exhaustion, but the wood still remains stubborn
even as it readies to my hand.
Th rough the spade I see the ore,
the cathedral the quarry, and there’s a wound
on the site of all creation.

I’m full up with the city, I long
to be back in a purer surfeit
where the wood is a kindly wastefulness, and rambling
is time frittered without guilt.

But instead, an end-of-summer feast, and orchids
a starry carpet of fluorescent plankton
on the front of the laser-wrapped basilica,
and product samples in the magazines, smart carbon alloys,
but what is most convincing in its purposiveness
are the geraniums and gentian, as history, like
a Baroque allegory, sprouting out of the ruins.

The slow decay of the copse is a chance
that I pass up, but it isn’t only mine.
What I mark out in space: a swollen knot
my associations accrete. The heart of memory
suddenly collapses, the valley coils up around me.

Look, the marshalled markers of spring,
the obedient expanding circles of the wind, in the middle
a smaller central part surrounded by flowers.
Their smoothness stretched tight upon them, their roughness
pricking stubbornly out, the communicating vessels of the stalks,
the truth of the petals taking the place of the bud, now.

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