He’s sitting at the groaning board with their only child on his lap.
Now he’s squatting on the street and, like a folding chair,
he’s leaning against the wall of a house.
I let him stay with me for a while,
then he moved into one of my T-shirts.
It was in the store I saw him last.
the security guard asked him to open his bag,
to prove that it was empty.
Then he laughed, as if to show
that there were no words in his mouth.
Ivadékaikat a bölcsőszájú halak
As the Offspring of the Cichlids
I mostly remember the snow.
We elbowed on the windowsill,
staring at the infinite whiteness
when the soldiers broke the door in on us.
I still had time
to drag my little sister to the pantry.
While we were hiding
each breath hurt as if
rifle bayonets were stabbing me.
I worried that the bayonet could pierce between my ribs.
Then it was over.
They’ll find us, my little sister screamed.
I squeezed my eyes shut so as
not to see what they would do to her.
It’s said that in the greatest need
one can hear God’s voice.
Perhaps, you don’t speak, my Lord,
because you don’t carry us
in the palms of your hand but in your mouth,
the way the cichlids carry their offspring.
The soldiers dragged me out to the garden, spread my legs.
stuffed snow in my mouth to stifle my weird, prolonged
scream. At first I didn’t
know it came from me. I thought
a rodent looking for shelter got stuck between
the insulation and the roof, and ran at the
wood paneling until it hit its head,
bloody, and made it stick there.
But when they stuffed snow in my mouth,
I realized the sound came from me.
The snow melted in my mouth,
the slush dripping down my throat.
It tasted the same as
when my little sister and
I caught snow on our tongues
when it fell.
Since the war began,
nothing tastes the same,
neither my mother’s soup,
nor my granny’s sponge cake,
but the taste of snow didn’t change at all.
My mother said God carries us in the palm of his hand
and not in his mouth.
I, lying on the cold ground,
am thinking of the warmth of your palm, my Lord.
After the soldiers finished they stood up,
but said nothing, remained silent.
The mountains drill the sky
the way teeth bite the lips
of a man suppressing a cry.
Zita Izsó was born in Budapest in 1986. Her poetry collections are Tengerlakó (Sea Dweller), Színről színre (Face to face), and Éjszakai földet érés (Nighttime Landing). The Debrecen Színláz Company took her drama entitled Függés (Dependence) to the stage in 2010. Since 2015, she and the Hungarian photographer Máté Bach have run The Pest Woman blog. She is one of the editors of the FISZ-Kalligram Horizons World Literature Series, the 1749.hu – World Literature Magazine, the Pannon Tükör literature review and the Üveghegy Children’s Literature website. Zita’s poems have been translated into English, German, Arabic, Turkish, Czech, Polish, Serbian, Slovak, Romanian and Bulgarian. She translates English, German, French, and Spanish writers.
Gabor G Gyukics (b. 1958) is a Hungarian-American poet, jazz poet, literary translator born in Budapest. He is the author of 9 books of original poetry, 6 in Hungarian, 2 in English, 1 in Arabic, 1 in Bulgarian and 11 books of translations including A Transparent Lion, selected poetry of Attila József and Swimming in the Ground: Contemporary Hungarian Poetry (in English, both with co-translator Michael Castro) and an anthology of North American Indigenous poets in Hungarian titled Medvefelhő a város felett. He writes his poems in English (which is his second language) and Hungarian. His latest book in English is a hermit has no plural (Singing Bone Press, 2015). His latest book in Hungarian was published by Lector Press in May 2018. Photo by Sándor Gyapjas.