Tóth Krisztina költő, író, műfordító

Fotó: Bulla Bea     

Translations by David Hill

 

The wise man’s song

Tell me, do you know what the soul is?
That’s not a joke. You really need to know this.
It’s something that cannot be seen directly.
I see myself when someone’s face reflects me.
Now from my soul I’ll calculate my age.
It shows how many years I have disposed of.
How many still remain, I will not gauge.
It’s time the soul’s appearance is composed of.

 

The armored warrior’s song

My suit of armor
shields me,
hides me, never re-
veals me.
Sword hanging at my
side’ll
keep my heart safe, it’s
vital.
Only me in this
body,
no one else, and if
oddly,
some gap is seen, not
often
do I let that gap
open.
Blindly I walk, well
guarded,
but sometimes, caution dis-
carded,
I’ll show you a tiny
window.
The armor won’t give
in, though.
Its throb will make a
racket.
A puzzle – you can’t
crack it …

 

… My suit of armor
shields me,
hides me, never re-
veals me.

 

Mimosa song

Mimosa sky,
mimosa moon,
amongst the grass
shines forth the moon.
The sound’s a path.
Where does it lead?
What was not, and
what cannot be.

The sound’s a path.
The silence – same.
Mimosa moon,
mimosa sky.
What happens with
your face, your name?
We are paths too.
Don’t fear, don’t cry.

 

The clown’s song

You’re all obsessed with small things,
like “earlier” times, or “later,”
from one place to some other,
a when and where for all things!

I’m past all that, by far,
just like the angels are.
No timelines I adhere to,
no place I part from, steer to,
I’m always everywhere.

 

The spring fairy’s song

Spring breeze blowing, showers pouring,
this old song’s becoming boring.
Oh my bloom, my blossom,
there’s a place I’m missing from.

What’s my choice? Who should I bet on?!
Have you picked me for the part –
oh my bloom, my blossom –
of a garden round your heart?

Every birdie picks a partner,
flies from view, flies on and on.
No one but the breeze can answer
where it is I’m missing from.

 

The song of the pirate and the sailor

The pirate:
I’m much devoted to direct discussion.
Muddling around is not my middle name.
So here’s the deal. The things I says, you does ’em –
or I’ll do something you’ll not see again.

The sailor:
Listen, buddy, I’ve pretty much seen all things,
on constant journeys anywhere fate’s calling.
I’ve traveled over every sea,
so don’t try talking tall to me.

The pirate:
Throughout the seas, it’s me the people bow to.
I’ve no time for this fight, I’ve won enough.
I’ve just dropped by to tell you fellows how to.
I’m hanging round to teach you guys some stuff.

The sailor:
Once more I’ll sail, some day when I desire it.
Just try to catch me then, my little pirate!
No sign of my insignia.
I’ll never explain the enigma!

 

The femme fatale’s song

Laughing laughing laughing,
laughing, gaze up,
gaze skywards;
looking looking looking,
look for the words,
find my words.

Luring luring luring,
sweet dreams you’ll dream
with me, lad.
Lying lying lying,
don’t flirt around,
don’t be bad.

Leaving leaving leaving,
leave alone any-
one who,
letting letting letting,
lets what they think
be known, too.

Lapping lapping lapping,
like a wild fire,
insistent,
loving loving loving,
come to my arms
this instant.

 

The song of the master of imagination

From silence springs an echo words compete with.
From chopped-down trees, the shadows stretch up high.
And as they’re falling earthwards, past facts meet with
the current true things growing to the sky.

But I can see the constant silhouette there;
the form that lies behind the blurred migration;
the echo sounding, guiding you to get there,
to see plain truth in your imagination.

 

The song of one who waits

Patient waiter,
time-bider,
slow weaver of
time’s fiber,
I’m like the waiting
spider
or any still
outsider.

Might have some years
behind me,
if something
could remind me
what I am, what
awaits me,
where I’ve
gone, who’s
replaced me.

 

The song of the lipsticked woman

Here’s my musical turn:
like my lips, bloody red.
See it glow, watch it burn
on your spirits’ hot bed.

Like my lips’ crimson shade,
or like coal’s blackest hue,
so my melody’s played,
while its flames play with you.

Hear my tune, listen close.
Note the turn of my mouth.
From the ash the song rose –
now your heart’s bitten out.

Here’s my musical turn:
like my lips, bloody red.
see it glow, watch it burn
on your spirits’ hot bed.

 

The wanderer’s song

Things are too vast,
nothing’s just so.
I’m left nonplussed
each way I go.

Like some antique
labyrinth round me,
all’s gigantic,
all things confound me.

What’s my bearing?
Should I go here or there?
Street, then square, then
one more street, one more square.

Like some huge
labyrinth round me,
I’m confused,
all things astound me.

All too high,
all just so,
roads I try
let me go.

Where to, though?

 

The outsider’s song

Foreign this world,
foreign the touch,
up there mist swirls,
down here it’s dusk,

foreign the name,
foreign the ice,
out there cold rain,
in here feels nice.

Foreign myself,
foreign here, there,
foreign the head,
foreign the hair,

foreign high place,
foreign down low.
foreign this yes,
foreign this no.

 

On the nature of love

Harbor suspicions as you watch closed eyes.
The water glugs beneath the ice, extras
act out the dream, and through the mouth’s entrance/
exit an aerial procession slides;

recurring words, years reckoned in street signs,
buses that go zigzagging eastwards-westwards
across the nights, and on disordered bedclothes
the blinding signals drawn by motorist’s lights …

… You’ve not been here. You lie here now, but that is
soon to be just a recollection. Therefore
intensively interrogate the hand which

recently moved as yours: you cannot ever
be sure who owns the body lying latticed
by shadows from the drapes, the stranger.

 

On the nature of pain,

which, fundamentally, cannot be fathomed.
Some don’t say anything, but – in a bad case –
just stare dementedly while rocking that way
and this way to an inner rhythm;

while others stand up, knock a chair, and leave un-
steadily, they don’t turn around (in fact they
do, but not physically), and just their back stays,
caught in the picture frame, long after quivering;

they don’t ask for a light, ignite themselves, nor plan
some daring feat involving rope and rails;
they walk across the bridge and just look down …

… How should I have reacted? Glacially still,
reached down into my bag and drawn
a gun on you, like in the films?

 

New Year’s Eve

Well, there’s another year I’ve chased away.
It’s dressed in snow and just on its way out.
I know you’re somewhere: not here, not with me;
still, you exist, so everything’s all right.

Tangible and imagined places
border upon another evening,
where you have come, but after some time gazing,
all that I saw was foreign in it.

Conversely, too, if I unpacked my handbag,
just foreign things is what you’d see there.
A handkerchief, spare keys, a soggy namecard –
nothing from which you’d recognize me, is there?

From just one shoe could you proclaim on sight
that it was mine? Or know me (I’d be able)
from glancing at a hung-up coat?
could you predict my imminent arrival?

And so I watch the room as in a mirror:
so spacious and familiar is this foreignness,
my unreal other life – I really
should spend this night asleep in bed;

long, heavy years, I should sleep through them all.
Sink, sink, don’t surface in my forebrain:
when people ask me what I’m called,
I shouldn’t start to think of your name.

 

Metro trains in contrary directions

You’ve got a good life now:
no more looking suspicious, rolling me round
inside your mouth, an unchewed morsel,
while all the grown-ups eat: now you’re an angel.
The telephone won’t interrupt you just when you’re
giving your child an evening bath,
or any time, though you’ll of course call me –
those steadily repeating stabs round midnight.
Nor will we meet by chance on buses:
the lovely serendipity
of strange occurrences is past, behind the smog-
filled sky the split-seconds will just move on;
you wont have extinguished the morning if
you don’t go to the everyday bother of
draping the dark-red quilt over the glass door.
(I’ve left it there, it’s pitch dark.)
Oh yeah – thanks for the title to the verse:
I’ll be in touch as well, I will be there
in your engagement book, an eighth day with no name,
no business there and nowhere much to go.

 

File

“Hey, did it hurt? Hey, did you hear?”
I didn’t. Lying back upon the couch, I gazed at
the colored circles gleaming with the back-light:
like a church window, yellow, blue and red
stained glass: something I’d never seen in an apartment.
We had to rush – by five his mom was coming.
He hopped behind me, pants around his ankles.
I squatted in the bath; he stood at the tap.
Yeah, I love it too. The morning’s when it’s nicest.

I was just sixteen, sixteen more years elapsed,
Then, on bus seven one day, there he was.
“The stained glass thing between the dining room and
the sitting room, you know? I guess you guys kept that up?”
“Be serious. That was just something Dad made.
He brought some colored files home from the office
and put them in between the double windows …
… I get off here and take the metro. Cheers!”

Why do all wonders have to be exploded?
Santa Claus. Storks. And now comes this.

 

I’ll bet you

I’ll bet you he’s a traveler too
his eyebrows show it his peculiar
face is full of forests wheeltracks
autumn burnt leaves he could’ve

arrived by water who knows yes
he steered in viking-yellow glory
there in his eyes you still can see
the sway of sailcloth mornings

and on his arms rough shrubbery
a rowboat’s slimy bottom
or rather of course southern land
a window holds him hostage

foreign locations foreign sounds
years locked inside aromas
he leans forward to mingle in an
electric lamp’s extinguishing’s enigma

 

Sends a smile

I

The other day I looked into your eyes in a stranger’s face on the metro.
There are days like this when everything somehow jogs my memory.
Someone’s a bit like someone you get off look at them and then no.
But this is another year past things can’t be never-ending.

In the same way an old classmate walked toward me just like she was in childhood.
I never though it would happen to us too incidentally.
Oh god how much I would have liked to be beside you.
You’re standing there in the metro and bang you grow old suddenly.

I often wonder how they’d react to each other these two bodies.
What your smell would be like I’m sure it must be different now.
If they even could react to each other these two bodies.
There’s a thin scar where I gave birth to my little son.

Somehow my hips are getting wider as well I don’t know the reason.
For all this I find it really neither pleases nor tires out.
Looking into that other face it was so confusing.
There you were with your stranger’s eyes looking at my stranger’s mouth.

II

Sometimes I get frightened I seem to hear my mother when I’m speaking.
At the cinema recently she almost talked to me from a mirror.
The way she held the soap suddenly I was struck by the feeling.
All those shitty years what a pointless waste they were.

Not to mention the man I live with in certain familiar intonations.
Our dog also reminds me a lot when it looks at me that way.
About my mother just now I wasn’t exaggerating.
Mind you why I’m talking about all this stuff I can’t say.

It was the last Christmas when I was still a child I got a kitten.
We lived next to a food store the busy road was snow-covered.
It saw me ran to me crossed the road in that instant.
How many times must I learn these things all over.

Prior to let’s say a pebble a chestnut a tree leaf.
You’d answer that’s exactly why and actually it could be.
A thing that I know as well and I who had seen it.
Nonsense I say I’ve become creation’s keenest student.

III

Last year at the beginning of autumn when we first moved in to this house.
Nothing but dust paint everywhere nothing but thinner.
We hoped perhaps our breathing would change it chase the whiff out.
Then it got gradually cooler after that I can’t remember.

Suddenly in the mornings we couldn’t go out on the terrace.
You sat out with a coffee and started to get cold with your coat.
Off with your coat off try to settle in the empty places.
Somehow you sort things out you manage to fall on your feet.

Like some far-off season this light of today it’s so unhomely.
It’s like I’m somebody else or it’s more like I’m elsewhere.
I went inside for a cardigan even though it’s still only.
Not so much the colors it’s more the quality of today’s air.

To know it’s not summer sketching itself but the face of autumn.
See that leaf a mouth-shaped rust patch silently stains it.
My little son stares from the past a baby-eyed kitten.
Still air’s thin smoke signal I gaze at gaze at.

 

A bet on Rottenbiller Street

I threw a coin in the pool of the night.
“I bet I’ll never come back here.
Tra-la-la, goodbye, Rottenbiller Street!”
The coin flew over the banister.

Apartment door slammed shut, gate locked.
Still I’ve come back for a look about.
Smoke of a final cigarette,
hesitant. The match goes winging out.

The lamplight falls into the yard.
The sound of footsteps in the hall.
Lace curtains in the windows twitch.
Night’s hung along the corridor.

I live a hard life now, as well,
on a thin, yellow copper wire.
It strikes up like a violin
when silence falls. I can’t get free.

God bless you, Rottenbiller Street.
I run through rain to catch a cab.
It’s started to pelt down, full force.
Something floats back, but who knows what?

I stretch out my soaked overcoat,
and let the wind blow through.
A coin tossed away, a whirling promise,
spins round, is lost, comes rolling back.

 

Terézváros elegy

Szív Street and Lövölde Square,
houses with scars on their faces,
the scenery of childhood days,
the whispering of tight-fitting doors.
Where is the first pure word?
It rolls around on blistered pavements,
And there’s no one who will find it again.
Or perhaps I didn’t say it.
I have no idea what it was
but it was beautiful and eternal
like the love of other people.
Beautiful like the big treasure shelves of tobacconists
and eternal like the terror of the
first kiss.
Where did you live your other life?
Go on, set off. An underwater silence will receive you
and you will see, like a seashell-shaped medal,
surfacing on
a chain, your face.
Because how many snowfalls make a childhood?
And a life: from beginning to end,
how many downpours or fallen leaves?
This comes into your mind each year,
whenever you look on
at the winding start
of the half-written story.
You go upward
along the narrow street,
a damp, cellar-smelling
course,
and meanwhile you think to yourself,
just to yourself,
“Because this is that kind of holiday.
At the end of each summer it comes around,
but can’t be told from the diary.”

 

Welcome , today is Sunday, 2019-05-19