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from "New Life"

For keeps this time? Why not? The flat, it's true,
is crammed to the hilt with others' history,
but what if it is? Theirs will not be too

different from yours. Some potted greenery
brought in for winter... three, four months swim by
and you don't even notice the scenery:

crash-helmet on the wardrobe, the pleated sky
of a deep-blue fan pinned out against the wall
like a dead bat, on which two pochards fly

skeetering towards the shelf... Puffy, dropsical,
the doorpost is swollen about rusted locks
(flesh round a wedding ring). A faint pall

of dust on the lamp whose little brain box
reflects the light, fire's pallid baby sister.
Is this a kind of vision, or simply how it looks?


A couple of years, and you don't even think of moving.
Or you might, but know it's just not on. Your friend,
D, will not move either, but will still be striving

with vibrant Dostoyevsky's soul, and spend
the next five hundred years hunched over the screen
of his word processor; nor will there be an end

of J, the musician, trailing his scores between
the ground floor and the third, not to mention the Pekes
inherited from his girlfriend, trembling, obscene,

up greasy wooden stairs. A's lousy TV freaks
her out, with its constant humming, heads and busts
of terrorists or commentators with El Greco physiques,

grey skulls aflame in interstellar gusts.
True, she might, if the neighbours got her riled,
eventually fix the doorbell, but the mower rusts

in the shed, and our famous 'lawn' grows wild
in winter, every little weed in furious sprout,
as if the bio-clock were running a self-styled

republic, and had surreptitiously winkled-out
an immaculate display of bleeding hearts,
a hard sell of bright shrubs in shameless rout,

crab apple, Japonica, like common tarts
to strut against a swirling February mist,
the anaemic catkins' less effective arts.

Those straggling off-white hordes in the park insist
on being sea-gulls, stiff, triangular,
and not the soft white geese your eyes first promised,

winged spools, awkward in flight. How spectacular
the sun is when it shines... it casts a fleeting halo
of backlight about trees and grass which are

ideas of greenness but real ideas! And oh
how its thoughtful fingers search my rough tweed coat
for tiny bits of fluff that cling like snow...

(translated by George Szirtes)



It's hardly worthwhile noting down which door
leads where - in any case I won't be tapping
my way round the angles of this dark corridor
again, seeking a doorknob, wary of waking
who knows who with a creaky floorboard. Why
take especial notice of a stranger's flat anyway?

In the dim glow of the bathroom mirror
I make out cans of sprays, a double row
of toothmugs, and as in the flash of a camera,
myself in agitated outline. Despite this show
of belonging, I'm out of my element,
a foreign body lodged in an alien event,

no more. But even if the postulated soul
is missing, every gesture of the mock
sacrament enacted on that preliminary roll
of tartan - variations on a common stock
of ideas, but so many and so individual -
in other words the whole neckbreaking ritual

works with such a fluent passion that the cursed
heroine can remain in perpetual mute arrest
even if it's the hundredth time and not the first
when, between deep blue sea and prompter's box,
she shakes her terrified incredulous locks
to stare fixedly at the hand across her breast.

(translated by George Szirtes)

"She emerges as a poet of striking images and also as a shrewd observer of everyday life. Although her tone has not changed much in the past fourteen years, one can detect subtle shifts in her poetic technique and a great broadening in her subject matter." (George Gömöri, World Literature Today, vol. 69)



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