14 March 2014

Three Poems

Walking the road from Viznar to
Alfacar you come to the Well of
as in Moorish times the Fuente Grande was called –
it is not far from Granada,
but close to the waters of Lethe. To this spot
the firing squad at sunrise took its prisoners.
Federico, to no advantage, survived the first
volley, Der springt noch auf was here
shouted out in Spanish and a few more
rounds were emptied into his body. A mass
grave? No, but shared
with the peg-legged village teacher and a
toreador who was never seen in church and
more than once offended the priests with
Blinding nights, nights drained of blood.
When the summer sun came up above
the ballad maker had disappeared from the earth.

This garden is unlike all others:
English, well-tended French, or
charming Japanese, open or closed,
lawn-covered, flower-rich; this is a
garden I was banished to
for opening my mouth too wide, just
once, and boldly speaking out. It isn’t
as depressing as some imagine,
neither is it as colourful or scented or
as the view from a grim tenement makes it
seem. There are two fruit-trees that adorn
this garden:
the trees of freedom and of memory.
From either tree you must pick an equal
burden, but never should forget its history:
that while you made the garden as
your own, the two trees there belong to
God alone.

To the Memory of the Polish officers of Katyn Forest
A beautiful bright spring day bathed in sunlight! An uninhibited woodlark trills in the thicket. The air is still cold, but the wintry patches of snow are disappearing. The guard enters with the order: “Collect your things! On your feet!” We are issued with herring, bread and sugar, wrapped up in clean paper. We board the train and lurch slowly westward. Through the gap in the roof the domes of Smolensk flash by. The train halts at an abandoned station, where we change to strange little buses. Strange, because their windows have all been washed with lime. For a moment I notice, on either side, soldiers with fixed bayonets. Why is there this urgent state of readiness – and where, I wonder, are they taking us on this bright, chilly spring morning?
Translated from the Hungarian by Clive Wilmer and the Author
From George Gömöri’s recent book, Polishig October. New and Collected Poems, Shoestring Press, Nottingham, 2013.

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