April 11th, 2014

Tossing the heads of cut grass

with a quick peek at the sparrows

a mighty wind scooped me up once

out of an April evening’s shadows.


She was looking for her children

and found me on the way.

She roared her joy; I smiled, rocked

on her huge breast lull-a-lay.


She swept me past village and field,

tumbled me good and muddy,

cackled and tugged as she dragged me

to the slushy outskirts of the city.


Playful sports loafed on the street,

getting into playful fights–

they hollered, I bawled,

till they quit and called it a night.


It must have been some sort of holiday,

believers were streaming to church,

where saints blessed them with sad hands

that trembled and lurched.


As bells were tolling there grew

a vast evening peace in each heart.

The murderer, finished with his man,

hat in hand was about to depart.


In a tiny pineboard contraption

a cradled tulip and a hope alive

I was entered into the constitution

of the year 1905.


A son to that cardplaying workingman,

and for that lovely young washerwoman

in the muddy park: an ambition, a goal–

a bundle of cares wrapped in a shawl.


That poor woman’s been a long time gone

but the wind won’t leave her son alone.

In the forest we moan the night away

and fall asleep at the break of day.



from: WINTER NIGHT, Selected Poems of ATTILA JOZSEF.  Oberlin College Press

Translator’s Note: Dear Jozsef Attila, How does it feel to be 109?  I know that recently your bronze statue near the House of Parliament in Budapest, (a so-so sculpture showing you seated “By the Danube”) has been moved a bit closer to the river.  We’ll consider this a promotion, of sorts.