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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Five Contemporary Hungarian Poets
translations by Michael Castro & Gabor G. Gyukics
Michael Castro Author 's Links || Gabor C. Gyukics Author's Links
 Note: bios of poets follow translations.

Endre Kukorelly


Not like this, in those small pieces, not like this, maybe (1)
there is a silver-green fishknife, finely drawn, deep green (2)
river, as it cuts the country to several pieces, here (3) I sleep
to dream, too, (4) I dreamt, some torn mouth, shiny body (5) radiantly
metallic, as it throws itself up on the stone and (6) falls back,
it isn't closer to anything, the sky, the shore, the (7) water,
up and down, in the air.

the way I slashed it, it crumbled down like a sand castle
(1) dried out pastry, evaporated, death had separated from it,
from over there (2) it has no chance of falling back, sir, unless
(3) it really wants to fall back, but it doesn't really want to
(4) want, no will can reach over there (5) through the heady air,
and if it would get back somehow (6) then it would have an
infinite desire to be there, it's been chased there by every (7)
pain, it's been torn up to pieces like this, by a piece we provided

as he spirals up to the air and dives back on down, his head (1) hits
the concrete and a few drops of milk-white something (2) flows
out, blood--and from the river, that he (3) separated himself from,
you can tremble now, that's how he is shaken by the ground (4)
and there is one who stands there, stares at him, browsing, then
(5) withdraws uphill on the shore, up to the pavement (6) turns
back all of a sudden, slips, tumbles down and (7) palms the
cobblestone, he'd rather run away, slips again

he stops, hardly, at home, his bed, sitting on his bed (1) pulls
his legs up, huddles, puts his chin on his (2) knees, it can't be
otherwise, nothing will change differently (3) from anything,
sitting like this, sleeping, he's already totally someone else
(4) when the gray sky is pouring down, that's how (5) everything
shakes itself apart, the shore is shining and (6) he sees wide
open eyes, many killings, many, no killings, (7) a few killings
good, good, a few, no killings, no.

Which Cloud Can it Stretch up to...


Neither that barely ascending
path in the woods, nor those
holes pressing down to hell, deep
          bronze, red
flames, or those

suddenly grown tall, young
          trees and among them
that old giant
the way it stands there, forgotten
     and stretches up to the clouds


The smoke isn't rocking. Fading
silver. Everyone is all alone.
Like a tree. A soul. Like
a tired out member to be.
That's what I imagine.
I imagine it to myself, and now, still

oh, it's only imagination. In a little while
I begin to cough anyway.
I imagine things like this and cough
badly in the meantime. I only imagine
it is still happening and,
consequently, endlessly cough.


There are visible from here
in the distance (he was reading
a book then) (he was reciting
something then, as they
floated him away) they are visible from here
in the distance (he was sitting at the

table glancing up from a book) (he was leafing through
a book, while the flocking) (the flocking
armies crushed him down) noticing the way
the flocking mob trampled him down


Man, inside
from inside, wild
glowing branches
naive, full
hearted, beauty and
power. High resonant

Who could resist?
And behind beauty
and power, death
peeks out.


Some narrow
small, rather shabby
stretch of a road
where men get wedged
against the wall,

pressed to the flagstone
God presses down
those whom he
defends, and
smears them on. . .


They tried to confuse him
at this place.
But he didn't make a mistake,
he didn't mix them up
with more pale things.
He didn't even feel

the more sensitive places.
There is only talking
to people. In that place
he received such blows
that now they protect him
like cold armor.


Something has ended, a single something
has one ending
and that
swirls and makes
loud noises.
He thinks, only he
had to answer
those questions.
They asked him
if he understood
but he

shook his head
from side to side.


When he stares at them, he listens
head pitched upward in silence.
The lamp that was
placed behind his back
x-rays him--bone, calcium,
soot and fluids--
coloring the soul green-blue.
It shines in all directions.
A lamp and everything.
Many icy glances.
The sparkle of icy eyes.


It's not a cold iron statue
that stands before him.
He can't feel its weight,
only its taste. Because
of something it gives off;
the crowd breathing                               

ironblock, merged with the air,
floating away and bouncing back
hard. But he doesn't look
anywhere, or after anything,
no, because
He is in front of him.
Because he has his private
iron universal
Father, and He has His
enormous ears, sharp
shaped, and since
cold exists as well

as it's been ordered, he's rubbing them--
they crack like ice,
the ears. And there is another, at least one
spot of snow, a private
snowflake in the snowing.


He has a weakening
army and nine
twenty year old untouched
machine-gun bullets with
their own patriotism,
an eminently fireable, eminently typical load.

It happens, that
great sound mix
and always around feelings.
The best thing to do
is to cover my ears
and fire. Bbb bbbbb


You Have to Give it up
Soon you have to give it up. The body
and the heart and things, and the soul, too.
The soul flies up. Up, where. Soon you have
to give it up. The body leaves you.
Aches, falls, loosens. Aches, burns, burns
comes to an end, bone, the body flows away. How
easy it is. It leaves you.

You leave it, easier than you leave the street, a
bench, a glove, the sight of
pouring rain, the sobbing of it. The flowing rain.
Finally the pain leaves, steps away. It won't be worse.
It's not worse, that's it. Or it's not cruel.
It rather might be sad--what isn't?
The fallen fruit. Fragment.

For example, the sound doesn't emerge. It sits far in
the back. Sat in the back. It sat in the back of a bus.
Sat back. To grieve. Or to run down. Thinking
it will run you down easier. Or
why. Why.
Soon you
have to give that up too.

They Walk, Sit in the Park

They walk, sit in the park, an outing, the sun,
turn their faces to the sun, sit down
lie on the grass, walk among the bushes,
talk softly, slowly, right beside each other,
laugh sometimes, somebody laughs sharply,
or sit on a bench, watch the water as it ripples in a
breeze, stand under trees, some bird song,strong fragrances, is there a There,
and how should it be, it's stinky, dirty and rotten
but it's okay anyway, what is it you play with,
investigating the buds, touching the tree trunks,
they talk about them, or they are silent about trees,
bushes, what kind of weed that is, and about the water,
the sun and the wind, about these

Gyorgy Petri

Hanging Question

Here I'm sitting on the bed,
I can see all the way out to the doorway,
I can see
my wintercoat, my hat,
my scarf
on the hanger.
Why not
my wintercoat, my hat
my scarf
sitting here on the bed,
and me hanging
on the hanger?

Would they watch me?

Credit Card

We shouldn't rush things: not even annihilation

No good ever came of haste.
Thus, we stay alive.

In other words, keep all options open;
exchange the one million pound bill of death
for the small change of life.

Or else, we don't make change
beyond our constant presence.
No one can break a nice
crispy death bill like this
with all its impressiveness.
We can live on credit.

The General Bank of Death
will cover all our expenses.
This way our balance is always
a moral zero.


Marriage Therapy
I'm trying to withdraw myself from your life:
becoming soundlessly soft, living on toetips, shoeless,
turning the key silently in the door like a burglar.
I'm trying--at the same time--
to stick to you like a toadstool to a tree,
sponge off you like mistletoe
(also known as "the sucker").
It's about time for me to grow up,
better late than never. On second thought,
maybe it's better never than ever.
Rain has been falling. By morning the sidewalk is slick:
it's either slushy-ice or mirror-ice. Either way we can or we can't see ourselves.

The Coming Winter

Late flowers are fumbling in the cold fall--
Do they hope for fruit?
The most stubborn wasps have withdrawn into the winter cracks.
They don't want anything,
those flowers with their drooping, dropping petals.
Only the playfully blowing wind
urged their heads together.


Elegy and Dissertation

I'd like to shrink nowadays.
It's better if one is proactive with
events that happen to him.
The desire for death is a synonym for a willing compromise.
Reducing size is not that bad at all;
one can fit in a baby kangaroo pouch, in a sportbag,
in an urn.
Shrinking creates less difficulties for a person.
Though he must gravitate. But chalk that up to
Mr. Newton's account.

Above all and after all
I would rather shrink into myself.
(I throng inside me. I contract.)
No community, no party, no corporation, no caste.
Just to present myself: what I am, that.
Moreover: becoming. Be
any side of the dice.
Not a turn, but a twirl.
Be it! Whatever will be, will be. Prevailing
I comprehend it as my own subevent.

I'd like to walk
on the "all bodies street" (Gyorgy Petri Boulevard),
beforehand I'd make
a good juicy beefstew,
just to eat a few more gristles and cartilages,
but first buy the ingredients for it
(calf, and maybe heart root, oxtail)
and then take a walk in this
(perhaps the last)
spring with you, with you, with you.
(Da capo el fine)

Dezso Tandori


We stepped in--the apartment didn't even tick-tock.*
*(or any other simile with similar meaning. The auth.)
Its broken axis--you, lay there
covered by a single sheet.
Your Noxyron pills, your tranquilizers
rolled all over the wreckage.

The Sadness of the Mere Verb "To Be"

I would have liked it if it was that way.
It wasn't that way.
I asked: be that way.
So it became that way.

Stairs Neither Up, Nor Down

          I do not wish for anything unattainable:
          I do not wish anything attainable.
          I wish th*t.
We always have to
*ight for something, so we wouldn't be
*dent for something.

The same thing reveals and covers

What would start
without it, from somewhere!

Or is there room for
the missing and the available?
Is it necessary at all
to make this distinction?

          "She only stared at my shadow,
          she didn't see me smiling:
          she stared only at me,
          she didn't see"


     "No, I wouldn't want them back"
      - Samuel Beckett, Krapp's Last Tape

Someday, I want to remember this.
That, somehow, continuous
(what's continuous?) continuous,
if it
happens. Up to the knees

(continuous: up to the knees.)
I waded, after that only
the next thing could happen

I turned away, I walked
parallel to the shore (that's the point!),
I was careful: it saved me
--goes to show, anything could happen. Summer
came again, that was the last
(the last) cloudy day, summer, with watershed sky
and its opposing shore
They were visible from there (grapes)
hills, the grapes were visible
(hills), a couple of (wine-presses) houses,
opposite a couple of wine-presses (houses)
All these sharp V's
quench everything. By night
(it grew dark?) it grew dark, only the roads
didn't stress the importance
(what? what didn't stress the importance?)
the molded concrete sidewalk. Here, during the day
one could
walk, we peeked through the
sunbathers, but they disappeared
by night. Outside

wind was blowing: grass and sand, the canvas
was clapping
(I don't even
remember this:) our canvas
pants. (The body sucks
in the daily heat, releases it in the night
that's why
it's a double joy.); that's why it's a double joy
to shiver in a turtleneck. (I had a
we put a patch on its collar, and one on its sleeve,
I still have it), I've already
talked about this: we walked,

among the fences and round sculpted acacias
on the sidewalk
(what that was: everything) it was like this: one could take approx.,
a half step

on a piece of it
in one direction

We walked, I walked. The sun

blared down
from behind the clouds, now the wind blew
throughout the day, sweeping through
the russet-brown stone edge of the bastion-like bay, the whole
shore was swimming. Of course it happened on another
day. She purchased (verb suffix)
a peach in the neighboring
village, she waited (verb suffix) in the short
(is it important?) in the short line; the water
sprayed almost up to the bench,
she peeled (verb suffix) the fruit,
tossed (etc.) its skin away, but before that
she wiped (etc.) the knife with the paperbag. A high
fence surrounded the tennis court,
its ground was wet; on the park's
road a little boy
turned around the corner, with a bicycle. The kiosks of the
icecream man and the fried-bread seller
were closed; I left; no one wandered along the beach
with saltshaker, with corn; but by the afternoon
I remember: it cleared up. Summer's
watershed arrived; (the last one, and--)
I asked for a lift from a carriage,
it didn't take me far enough, I, on the other hand
(understandable), understandable, wanted
to stay nearby, really
wanted to stay nearby; grease
dirtied up my legs getting off. In the evening
the cool air was pleasant, the body
swallows and releases it, the clacking
of the glass, the reeds
felt good. The reeds and glass clacking. A--(types of drinks)

I want to remember this. (--not even here--)
Yes. I want to remember this.


Lajos Parti Nagy

Becomes a Small Machine
I drank a lot my guilty conscience was
more than the next day could handle
I grasped this thanks to the explanation of my white fingers
fisting tightly into my palm, how wildromantic you are
and whatever it is you exquisitely
build into love, has no name,
this way it doesn't mean I at the end--
I was ignorant, blind-dubious
and I reacted as I learned about it
without finding myself, in my steady hands I oozed away
into poems if I ever existed
into lyrics I admired through the poems
scribble scrawled & ruffle knotted together
and the intellect, if there is any . . .
that it happened inside her with me
is because a poem is not an intellectual clumsiness
the poem belongs to something that leaves during operation
becomes a small machine buzzing and flitting
stargrinder figcram

Two Mouths Two Pair of Lungs Breathe for Them
untie the over here and the over there
without stamping like the evening's knee does
when it opens by closing into itself till dawn
and no one can ever realize its existence
as if a picture is not even a picture
or the moon if it moves can't be stable
in the east how blue the unending trembling of the blue--
noble paranoia far beyond its bloody footprints
two mouths, two pair of lungs, breath for them
has no scale, its steps soft as a lap
they merge into each other from where to where
and behind the time he understands why
and where he should have become detached

As the Clam Becomes Saltwind Again
The caffeine, the alcohol, the nicotine,
the poem, the inhibited love of the throat
without your voice the ringing telephone
my shining freedom upon you
your eyes your mouths my eyes
your freedom me getting lost
as I now still roar the ocean
as the clam becomes saltwind again

Fox-Item at Dusk

"The fox is a fox, is a fox, is a fox"

The fox-item as you flee
is your air and all you emit.
You sit in a bog or on a horse
the fox-item is that it.

"the fox-item is full of blood,
I'll die in a fox-item.
what's a lanky, light fur worth,
or a drinking poem?"

The fox-item is a tail-coat,
heavy menu on its chest,
the fox-item is tallowy, faded
clouds on an autumn crest.

The fox-item is cigar-ash,
ornate with negligent holes,
in its fairly torn condition`
to parties it hardly goes.

The fox-item, what does it show--
its vest-pocket hides a watch,
measuring the slopes of grapes
where blood pours down way too much.

The fox-item is an autumn day,
a scholar of time and space,
the clock-maker and the tailor
of the torpid dusk, precise.

The fox-item is nothing else but
the autumn sky's slovenly fire,
a shabby lapel burns with lard
while the grapes' flames burst ever higher.

The fox-item is a pair of wind-polished
wind-swept breeches,
and like alloy silver, its hip-high
buttucks crumble you to pieces.
The fox-item flies below
to the sock down to the bootleg,
and if down where the night beasts gather,
its wings hang inside the blood-lake.

The fox-item coughs and sobs,
a tender trumpet drooling
on both sides of a kissed mouth,
a brass razor dribbling.

The fox-item wears a tail-coat
but rarely puts a tongue on
and, afraid whenever it reloads,
it repeatedly asks permission.

The fox-item is all nails and claws
scorchingly single-breasted,
under the tail-coat a liver grows
wanted or not wanted.

The fox-item is full of wine
and many a red hangover,
the fox-item is all manhood,
but at night I shatter all over.

The fox-item, when it should be light
is when it will get heavy,
and it's sluggish, sluggish, sluggish
dulling the minute mind-honey.

The fox-item is tiny hands
crackling bones in furry muffs,
away from the lazy, silent tube
it falls to the ground in a huff.

The fox-item is fox-kisses
on the warm world's belly,
the fox-item is the grapevine's
eyelash yelping.

The fox-item, when it goes blind
never becomes cheese through a sickle flinger,
its pupil is the cunningly trained
cool of the new moon's finger.

The fox-item is lightning
in a barrel written mirror,
the view'd be gathered by someone else,
the wind would be its sweeper.
The fox-item is silent mulled wine,
the landscape full of clover,
wine and ashes, fruitfly smoke,
the peacelight of gunpowder.

The fox-item, when all is said and done,
jumps a horse, it is the dusk--
blood-stripe and fox-mouth,
pearl and red teeth in the dust.

Krisztina Toth

About the Inconceivable
It isn't what I want to say!
as soon as I begin to write, I realize--
and the truth surrounding all the lies
will be lost--remember how you turned away

with a grimace on the mountain way
because you didn't want your picture shot?
Those who always turn away, not letting their images be caught,
are never really present. That photograph you evade

startles, eating its way into my mind.
It catches fire at the edges and continues burning
into a crafty, smiling, plasticky curling: And I say, fine,
you are destroyed. Yet the rhythm of yearning
demands crying out your name for one last time--
you who look away, forever turning

The Nature of Love

Be suspicious of closed eyes!
Dreams demand movie extras--through the mouth
airy March blows in and out,
as water gurgles locked beneath ice

words, that return from time to time
street names recalling years and sights
busses zigzagging through lonely nights
reflectors on unmade beds shine, and blind

you weren't here then, that you're lying
with me now will soon be memory
so interrogate the hand, with your cruel, curious sighing

a hand that moved like it, touching, binding
once belonged to you, you can tell the story
of the curtain-shadowed, bare-bodied stranger, dying

The Nature of Pain

Essentially, it's undiscovered.
The afflicted don't say a word. Their eyes
stare emptily: they rock with silent sighs
an interior rhythm that can't be uttered

or, more expressively, standing, they knock over
the chair, leave with a clumsy walk,
lost in suppressed thought,
their backs still vibrating in the frame's picture.

They don't set them selves ablaze, don't even ask for a match,
they don't get any bright ideas walking by the railroad tracks,
they cross over the bridge, and look down, but only for a flash--

So what should I have done? Without expression,
rummage through my stash and, like in some movie,
coldly aim at him, and squeeze the trigger of my gun?


humming, in slow motion reeling
through the rug's squares, the narrow
room has a mattress, a backpack kneeling
by a stone fireplace whose fire is out of flame
scattered papers, shoes, fake flowers in a vase
as he comes stealing

in, ignores me, looks back out from where he came
moves away, forgets his weight-
less hand across my shoulder frame
he counts the faded figures on the brick wall
you lost weight, he says,
I don't argue, but play the game

Silent, Silent, Silent

a well lit nook
in your dream,
his face has no face,
still you want him:
a road runs under the snow,
a ditch lies
between your thighs,
who you love
is inside you without you,
sleeps somewhere and
disturbs your dream,
his hand is the hand
between your thighs
you find it there,
slowly circling,
opening your liquid thighs,
now you can reach the needle-point
of his absence,
his name is his name,
his throbbing is memory,
who you want
you feel slipping inside you,
the way it was,your knees are up--
there you are,
you give him your dream,
your wakefulness,
a silent beat,
the light rotates with emptiness


the captain and
the city beneath the sea,
staring at you an evening long,
the angel flies
between you both only
you walk around what was
the table, swim
to the kitchen
to get some tea, you can hear him
coming, double
hesitation, a hand plays
with your hair, his left
strokes your breast,
you turn, deadly
bottomless silence,
midnight in the hot tea,
moon-drum rolls in your ears,
be careful, he whispers,
you whisper: why is he scared,
he draws you inside him,
rocks your forehead,
honey, honey,
be careful,
midnight in the rotating teacup,
water purls in your throat,
a broken heart beats,
his, yours,
drowning man,
you have reached the shore.


you are
also, though for days
you've been waiting for nothing else
but to hold his prick:
you imagined it on the train
under his pants,
when he placed
his bag overhead:
--well good, then let's make it
let him step in at three
taking his hat,
scarf and coat off,
you walk across the room,
wait for him by the window, he stands
behind you covering
your eyes, on his wrist,
you measure
how your blood rumbles,
this now is the now,
his unbuttoned shirt and his
buttock, his thighs,
you lean over, feel it at last--
how is the now: a long stroll
on your clitoris
slides inside you,
a running film, a promise,
yes, but
silent, silent, silent

The poets in this selection will be included in Swimming in the Ground: Contemporary Hungarian Poetry, translated by Michael Castro and Gabor G. Gyukics, due out in 2001 from Neshui Press.

Bios of Hungarian Poets

Dezso Tandori (b. 1938) - author of fifteen volumes of poetry, twenty novels, essays, plays, and children's books, Tandori received the Sonos Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, and served as Poet Laureate of Hungary in 1996.

Gyorgy Petri (b. 1943) - a poet, journalist, and political activist, Petri won the Attila Jozsef Award, Hungary's most prestigious literary prize, in 1994.

Krisztina Toth (b. 1967) - one of Hungary's leading young women poets, Toth has won several literary prizes, and published four books of poetry. She also translates French poetry.

Endre Kukorelly (b. 1951) - former editor of the magazine Lettre Internationale, Kukorelly won the Attila Jozsef Award, Hungary's most prestigious literary prize, in 1993.

Lajos Parti Nagy (b. 1953) - a poet and playwright, Parti Nagy won the Dery Prize in 1990, the Graves Prize in 1991, and the coveted Attila Jozsef Award in 1992.

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