A Mans Life... in the Proletarian Movement

Lajos Kassák 1887-1967

 

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Destroy in order to be able to build

And build in order to be able to win

 

Lajos Kassák was a working class movementary poet, writer, editor, avant-gardist activist. He was born in one of the god-forsaken places of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, in Érsekújvár. First he was working as a metal-worker in Győr and in Budapest, where he got to know the social democratic movement. He started to publish his writings in 1908. He soon sickened of the disgusting conditions of „genteel Hungary” and shaped his course Western Europe. Overpassing Vienna, Germany, Belgium, France he got to know the contemporary working class movement and modern art. His fellow-passenger was Emil Szittya, an anarchist sympathizer who was on the rove his life long and led a free and easy life.

His first volume was published in 1915, entitled Eposz Wagner maszkjában (‘Epic in Wagnerian Mould’). He came back to Budapest during the World War I. and started his first class struggle–avant-gardist journal, called A Tett (‘The Action’), but the bourgeois censorship banned it in 1916 because of its antimilitarist trend. Mention must be made that within the conditions of the conservative separation it was a brave and revolutionary act to publish a so radical journal against the nationalistic general atmosphere. In November, he launched a new journal, called Ma (‘Today’), which was a more mature, better edited one and it was shaped to a brilliant, class struggle–avant-gardist journal following in Die Aktion’s (Pfemfert) steps. It published works from Mühsam, R. Luxemburg, F. Jung, Trotsky, Lenin, Rubiner, G. Grosz, Tatlin, Mayakovsky and whole generations of Hungarian activists. It gave place to the whole of the bourgeois-abominator avant-gardist movement from De Stijl to Ferninand Leger. The editors of the journal were also committed proletarian writers, poets.

In 1919, Ma became the official journal of the Hungarian Council Republic, but afterwards the editors had a tiff with Béla Kun’s Bolshevik party and they were prohibited to publish the journal. Kassák responded in a letter to Kun’s attack who had termed the journal as a product of the bourgeois decadence. Kassák pointed out that they had always been independent and they wouldn’t join the regulated mass. Before one would think that Kassák and his fellows were very consistent and realized early the counter-revolutionary nature of Bolshevism, peruse the letter. One will see that they criticized the leadership of the party only as an opposition. (But mention must be made that in this period other activists – for example most of the to-be council communist and anarcho-communist militants in Holland and in Germany were together with the Bolsheviks. The beginning of the break was in early 1920.) Kassák had never become a Bolshevik, he had strong ties with Ervin Szabó’s anarcho-Marxist trend and with its counter-party policy as well as its romantic moralism. As he was very individualistic he hadn’t tolerated any organisational form, thus he was drifting in the sea of diverse working class movementary trends. Nevertheless, his commitment to the proletariat was unquestionable.

After the defeat of the revolution he emigrated to Vienna where he carried on editing his journal and started a new one, called 2x2. In the latter he published his gigantic autobiographical vision, entitled A meghal a madarak kirepülnek (‘The Horse Dies, the Birds Fly Out’), an aggressive proletarian class-struggle poem with futurist, dadaist-expressionist features. Kassák was becoming more and more known, his books were published, he made exhibitions, wrote manifestos, poems, debated with the social democracy and the Bolsheviks. He started to write his autobiographical novel in 1926, entitled Egy ember élete (‘A Man’s Life’). It’s a colossal encyclopaedia of the contemporary Hungarian working class movement. It’s a pity that the entire book has never been translated into any world languages. Kassák returned to Budapest in 1926 and started to publish a new journal, called Dokumentum (‘Document’), but his avant-gardist attempts talked to deaf ears. So he launched another journal in 1928, called Munka (‘Work’), which was politicizing more directly. It gave place to the forces which opposed Bolshevism. The Hungarian Stalinist party condemned the journal Trotskyist, but this was not true. We would say that it was a very important creative shop with far leftist trends, with its own workers’ choral societies, theatres, excursional societies under the aegis of the dilatory Proletkult. The journal was popular frontist, but not in the accustomed way because it gave place to antagonistic trends (for example Paul Mattick and the radical Marxists against anti-fascist authors). Kassák wanted to unify the different socialist trends and didn’t discern that there are no diverse socialisms just socialism, in other words communism – communist movement and struggle which are inflexible, world revolutionary and attempting to totality.

He was editing his journal by a very subjective approach, but Kassák had never changed his colours. Even if it’s true that we have to criticize him, because he emphasized his personality (even if he spoke about the struggle of the „collective individual”) and put himself above the organized class struggle. As a matter of fact he became reformist after 1924. But in this case it would be a simplification to submit this because Kassák formed a strange mixture of reformism and revolutionism. He had never had will to power, he had never tried to acquire a bourgeois position. After the defeat of the proletarian revolution of 1919, he wrote a genial poem about the events and about this work, entitled Máglyák énekelnek (‘Bonfires are singing’) we can say that in this period he didn’t become reconciled to reality. From the mid-twenties he remained without self-control and his political opinions „thined down”, but he didn’t become the tamed dog of the bourgeois order. At the same time, Kassák’s works are expropriated attachments of the bourgeois orgies which are held in the museums. Kassák’s working class movementary activity is dissembled – what remains instead of the social struggle is the vision of the civil nihilism about the freedom and superiority of art. If we let this…

 

Barricade Collective

2006. winter

 

 

The Horse Dies, the Birds Fly Out

(A ló meghal a madarak kirepülnek)

 

That’s when time whinneyed I mean parrotwise spread its wings a flung-open red gateway

there was my girlfriend walling-up her face’s black diamonds and lugging 3 kids

in her despair

sitting with me under the factory chimneys

we knew tomorrow the ways will be crooked

heigh ho heigh ho

you’re going then Kasi dear she said and I’ll wither away modelling while mister nadler daubs

obviously

obviously

the good lord is unmindful of beautiful women

just then the christ-like woodcarver showed up

young and outrageously redolent of truth

by tomorrow we’ll have crossed the hungarian border

well sure hmmm sure

obviously obviously

the city raced along beside us

here and there it turned at times reared up

I saw my father’s dented straw hat floating above the druggist’s frosted glass window

to the holy trinity monument and back

once my old man thought that at 21 I’d be chaplain in the parish of érsekújvár

but just ten years earlier in mr. sporni’s locksmith’s shop I’d eaten smoke

now the old man hardly ever comes back home to us

later it was my beautifully thought-out future he drank and peed out along with his beer

fell in love with some ancient cleaning woman

lost his hair and his only friends were gypsies

25 april 1909

I was all set for Paris on foot with the woodcarver

sitting in a puddle the little town played concertina

it’s from you I take my wings o st. Christopher never will you be your father’s son

a drunk shed crocodile tears

leaning against the wall of the “Golden Lion” hotel

I felt it was the end of everything

a red railway track ran through me and tower bells rang out

pigeons turned somersaults above the roofs

you might say gallopped with the sun’s chariot

the new bell of the franciscans all but sang

whoever’s for sleep should polish its leaden bars

hours went haunting by on white sheepdogs

I felt it was the end of everything

distillers and haberdashers had shut up shop

my friend my advice is to go back to your children

the wheels no longer turned in reverse

milk teeth long gone a man stares into nothingness at life biting its own tail

into nothingness

o dzsiramari

O lebli

o Bum Bumm

the ship stumbled-along with us like a pregnant woman

and behind our backs someone stowed away the scenery

this the first cut-in-two day of my life

within me flaming torches and bottomlessness

papagallum

o fumigo

papagallum

on riverbanks coppery birds caw-cawed in twenties

from the trees hanged men were swinging and cawing back

here and there from the river-bottom grim carcasses stared up at us

but we were 21

under the woodcarver’s chin the ugliest pink bristles curled

otherwise we got on fine

it was just our stomachs’ diagonal

no good our tightening the screws the oxen always started once more across the stubble

and sometimes we could hardly tear our eyes from the girl’s ankles

always at such times clashing of cymbals within me

vienna was 3 nights sleeping in the street

then once and for all we unscrewed ourselves from ourselves what’s civilization anyway

people anoint themselves with some sort of enamel then

start being disgusted by lice

what are family ties anyway

one lengthens the umbilical cord with some kind of silk ribbon

what’s it mean to respect god anyway

starting to be afraid so as not to have to be afraid

we nailed the highways to the soles of our feet and the sun too came along gold-mile striding through space

believe me elephants aren’t any bigger than fleas

red’s not redder than white

and if despite everything we still kept going on

towards a treasury logos and set up weigh-scales we’re sure to come out on the short end

and at this moment our eyes were opened

and deep we became as black wells in mining regions and we were walking and walking

13 angels ahead of us

likewise on foot

and singing to us of this our youth

already typical layabouts with trained armpit-fleas

we liked the fruit fallen into wayside ditches

curdled milk

and jewish community cashboxes

and from here and there many came to us as brothers

speaking every language under the sun and with wondrously brick-red faces

each with his own special smell.

and some were planed-down thin by the kilometres some with lips still milky from

their mothers’ nipples

the roads lay under white quilts beneath our feet

telegraph wires intertwined cabbalistic inscriptions against the sky

some evening between the women’s legs we saw flowers opening

but vegetarians and women-haters were we

dragging ourselves into passau aachen antwerp

the woodcarver had become skinny as a splinter and every hair of his beard turned red

then poems and hadzsura forests began sprouting in my head swimming twice across rivers of light

before us went rats on great rafts with trouser-buttons and birds-eggs for decoration

at p.o. boxes my girlfriend’s letters awaited me

but I knew the nights were lice-infested

so this was the time I worked at my poems which sprang forth

from my head like golden-fleeced sheep

no doubt about it the most helpless of animals

e roller shutters come crashing down

that’s life we say .at each station the customs officials rubber-stamp our hearts and we just drift on towards dawn

it would certainly make more sense if everyone traded sweet tree-roots or hard-candy potatoes

apportioning out the world they live in

to us through which we go 50 kilometres a day easy

via tunnels over hillcrests thorough taciturn german forests

fresh manure smell from fields hits us

hills sometimes turn around and trees shiver in the wind

trees just like girls who got pregnant

just like on closer inspection the marker-stones too

talking in low voices to each other:

if he leaves me I’ll kill myself

all day yesterday I was hemming diapers with gold thread

I’ll call her little angel and hang diamond cherries round her ears

or simply saying:

men you can’t trust any of them

and now the hills are stooping right down over us

the boa constrictor without scruple swallows the sun

in the end I may turn out to be a poet

it’s a matter of winding up noisemakers properly the biggest problem’s miss anna’s flightiness

yesterday I sent two poems home to independent hungary

and once again we relapsed at stuttgart

sitting at the down-and-outs table eating scones with jam

by the light of a styrian peasant’s heart among the roofbeams

in next door’s courtyard was a SALVATION ARMY service

flutes and clarinets shrilling beneath the stars

we saw yellow glass owls bending over young mothers

o lamb of god who takest away the sins of the world

within the woodcarver a semi-christ self began to rise again

and wanted to speak out no matter what

shut your cake-hole roared the styrian peasant

shoving his heart under our very noses

take a look 7 rusty daggers stabbed through it

the 7 lies my girlfriend stuck me with brothers

and now this green-edged bit see here to the right

that was my master’s last bite from it brothers

I’m 26 years old my life’s pure as the morning dew

in winter all day tidying up in front of the house

in summer bringing in the ripe grain

heigh ho man’s fate is even as the

everyone was wide-eyed and behind the crowd we saw the world turn its sheepskin-coat inside out

budapest-paris-berlin-kamchatka-st. petersburg

the woodcarver was already drunk and from eyes like gutters

trickled woebegoneness

the shouting little by little recedes to far corners and is snuffed out

let all swear henceforth to believe only in the magic power of clean drawstrings for underpants

I’d spoken out quite unexpectedly

and saw my voice coming towards us from the courtyard next door

I am a poet

and so I know

lamps burn better with double turatamo

and when full of kerosene

I was feeling terribly bitter I’d have liked to give something to those poor folk

but the sentry stars had deserted their posts

the 13 angel mouths gaping now sprawl asleep on the attic stairs

lord bless us

here come red armies of bedbugs marching down the walls

everyone should put salt on their noses

behold how short life is

yet it’s in us to become tomcats on the firewalls of paris

sleep little baby sleep.

people dofali asleep

this way verticals become horizontals

and vice-versa

down from the sky step children of link

come with me through the garden

on the other side of the river Mary puts her son to sleep

everyone should click down the shutters of the mind

in the floor’s yellow puddles my memories phosphoresced

rucksacks in far corners burst open with fierce barkings

like Mary with her son

I rocked the whole garden on my lap

and further off

behold appearing with their 11/2 reichmarks the apprentices

the sighing glazes

flowers are flowering

o so even you are here

you and I

on top of you

yes clasp your knees around me

little woman mine

silver salamander

pretty polly

my life’s brave tunic-trim

fruiting tree

plucked out star

o yes o yes

everyone should twist corks in bottles

the hours have flown their star-cages

and with long filter-tip noses elephants eastwards turn

first I heard just a phonograph wailing on the town’s outskirts

the woodcarver couldn’t get out of bed that morning

it’s killing me he said killing me

the beggar-queen stands with huge washing-up bowl over his head

out popped the clock’s bone-head cuckoo bobbing humbly

it’s killing me the woodcarver cried out killing me

and everyone witnessed how death

twice passed right through the room

yet why would you leave us my brother

why you’ve yet to bring in the flock from the meadow

with your yellow hair you’ve yet to light the lamps

and in your eyes the snakes are sleeping still

don’t bother with the ugly coffee-pot it bit the maid-servant’s belly-button

and now both have taken to their beds pregnant

it’s killing me shrieked the woodcarver killing me

and the houses bent low in slow tempo churchwards

a white-legged colt stuck his head through the window

who’ll buy this coat of mine said I

5 crowns nobody more 5 crowns

and suddenly roads started running down from the hills

just to go

once more go

since then I never saw the poor woodcarver again

though we’d been very good friends and by night

his beard flamed before me like the burning bush

for 2 weeks I wandered alone

sad I was like some old donkey and at every

roadside puddle I doused my head

so wanting to wash away those terribly sedimented memories

and they floated black flags towards the shores

to what manner of shores I know not

feeling that I’m some rushing river on whose banks

were shrivelled palm trees and green frogs

because by then I was inoperably a poet

I wrote regularly to my sweetheart

and knew I need only slit open my breast and pure

f only these belgian peasants weren’t so dirty

such chauvinistic swine know nothing of the world’s ways

I stand before them in vain

not one of them sees the star on my forehead

I was like the 7 orphans

yet it was here the crooked lines con verged in me

here I met up with szittya from zurich en route to chile to found a new religion

and I seriously believed he might become somebody

his ears were quite extraordinarily dirt-entrusted

we were laying around on the dockside at antwerp and delivered an oration to cotton-bales and

barels of herring

fellow citizens he intoned fellow citizens:

domesticated rabbits make most prolific hens and windmills rat’s teeth into grain

yet still they grind and this is not in vain

wherefore do ye fear o ye helpless ones

my words have flamed into flower across the meadows

perish all who concede the necessity for resting-points

come morning sunwards we set out towards god’s wayside inn

lilies opened in this poor brain of mine

yes indeed in the morning we set out towards god’s wayside inn

lacrima christi shall be our tipple in that thatched roof lean-to and slivowitz

o but into every decent fellow’s fate there drops at least one crocodile

the lad from herberg near zurich off to found new religion in chile

this very night caught a dose of clap in the rivoli street sailors’ brothel

soundlessly his house of cards collapsed

iron bars sprouted around us like those in the zoo

in rapid succession 21 times I called on heaven:

latabagomar

o talatta

latabagomar and finfi

phonograph records go on spinning endlessly

the swarthy hands of craftsmen ought to be sawn off

carpenters ease out each knot from its hole

locksmiths still can’t put the working parts together

and one day therefore our cage will collapse

surely you see isabelle there missing one glove

o who’ll give a thought to us unhappily three-eyed ones

above the houses clatter of birds bound for other climes

szittya in the undressing-room lost his new religion’s key

and on the first day blubbered over it like a child

then he vaselined his ears and we set out towards brussels

like robbery victims

we renounced everything and knew that time alone understands us

never will it let us slip from its grasp

by evening we were sitting in the maison du peuple at long tables

smoking that good belgian tobacco

we saw vandervelde cross the hall to the socialist secretariat

other famous leaders sat in front of the cashier’s desk dealing new french playing-cards

the place a huge mixing-bowl in which the world’s macaroni-humanity conglomerates

blue-eyed russians affianced to revolution

oil-smelling dutchmen

prussians.

lean mountain folk

hungarians with drooping moustaches

garibaldi’s pathetic kinfolk

and everyone who’d ever been beaten was here or who at home

hadn’t enough bread

on the shoulders of some new york skyscraper-wakefulness

from the eyes of others hatred stared redly

see how the world’s sublimest energies burst from the railway station

storms are rumbling

telephone-wires shrill from moscow’s heart

fair comrade go to the piano

waiters scurry right over us with thick black coffee

before cinemas proletarians are gathering

someone from the cooperative hands out tickets by ten

dogs run along gap-toothed walls and sing like old women

someone said down with oligarchy

rome

paris

tiflis

stockholm

samarkand

and coal-mines of the ruhr region

do you hear munich townhall’s little bells

in florence pigeons sleep on apostles’ shoulders

everyone knew god’s appointed hour could not be far off

more sensitive a fanatic’s skin than any seismograph

and we all scratched away

fair comrade go to the piano

up

up

o could I but switch on here my sweetheart’s diamond eyes

beside the central lamp the salamanders sailed away

szittya was already asleep in the red puddles

and now he was handsome as a young bulldog

how much richer might man become within the hour

if he would be as smart as a camera say

but man is shut in always and on his skin imperceptibly worlds are slipping away

at midnight we attended the russians’ meeting in the passage

a blond tovarich spoke such a child still

from his mouth flames blossomed from his hands red pigeons flew

yes well we are kin to dostoyevsky’s possessed

biting off within us sentimentality’s seventh head

and we want to tear down everything

o russia you accursed land

who else would see your helpless suffering if not us your star-marked sons

europe spits at the asians in us

and though alone we’ll still march on to the heights

an astrakhan baker’s daughter or st. petersburg whore doubtless

will one day give birth to the new man

russia with revolution’s red spring pregnant

but a russia on whose steppe flowers still cannot burst forth

but a russia like unto an uncultivated field

help us

brothers

europe’s unhappy sons like us

so help us help us!

and beneath an old cloth cap we saw his face catch fire

he had us in the palm of his hand

hurrah for russia! vive! vive! hurrah!

whereupon down off my back fell a hump

ice flowers opened upon the windows

and szittya who later became agent-provocateur and police-spy

planted a kiss on the russian’s coat

my heart is as pure as a child’s

he said: if I didn’t have the clap I’d go to tsarskoie selo to murder the tsar

that night we touched not a drop of brandy

washed our feet and gave no thought to love

a hungarian printer who later did 12 years for sedition told fortunes with the chambermaid’s cards

and softly yet far-carryingly we sang

at last yes at last

the time has come and we’re made whole like engrafted trees

we believed gold banners of march were massing above us

swans perched upon swings chuckling in two-part harmony

on the place d’eduard I wanted to offer myself upon the table of the poor

but in the small hours belgian gendarmes came to get us day scarcely breaking

the pissing boy statue still unobscured by baedekered foreigners

the dirty streets fancying they’re really part of paris

the townhall’s gold embellishments smirked down at us

and we went in handcuffs through the streaming blueness

down a steep flight of steps

past pommes frites sellers’ iron stoves

through pubs’ washing-up water

amid fishmongers’ early morning stench

poor vagabonds the law herded together and in whom now god is dying

h the rue mouffetard we ran into some whores

my spirits rose

how glad I was they were so beautiful at dawnlight

the whitewashed cross-wind blew crosswise their knotted hair

the diamond veiled sun peeps at us from an apartment firewall

all night long we’d kept vigil like saints

and now here I was drooling at their cigarettes

back if only I could have a scratch moaned szittya

who just lately was all set for chile as messiah

someone was flapping a white bedspread on a balcony

came to mind the blond child-russian who loves on flame

marinetti’s futurist god

he who loved russia more than a boy his mother

now for him it’s back over the belgian

frontier and one blue morning before the kremlin a gallows

so help us

brothers

europe’s unhappy sons like us

help us! help us!

I’m just a simple-minded poet only my voice has bite

so what if someone’s paper sword stabs the witch of tumaromi

12 days we spent in the mouse-smelly detention block

105 of us in one long hall

day and night

night and day

by night we were thinking of the open road and killing bedbugs

morning brought tepid water midday cold gruel and all day they made us pray

aloud incomprehensible belgian

prayers towards the bearded guard sitting on a raised platform

like some idol

then dark-green freight cars took us to the french frontier

9 kinds of birds eggs I found in sundry nests

lord bless us

here comes paris

about which I’ve heard singing miracles

and which I don’t know as yet

I knew the frence’s had a red cock in their coat of arms

knew french soil with girls and art is blessed

zola’s peasants swam on silver guitars at dawn

the seine laid out blue corpses on grassy banks

szittya spoke about dunajec about the hungarian teacher

now violin virtuoso in the chat noir

with his 9 mistresses most odd frenchwomen left-over

war-horses from the franco-prussian war

checking my notes: so far saw 3,004 pictures of Christ

found 9 kinds of birds eggs in sundry nests

at luttich I drove away 2 cows

so now

I was 300 kilometres from paris

and above our heads parrots went on crutches

O PARIS!

PARIS!

endre ady saw you naked and in your bloody ruins

guillaume apollinaire the simultanist poet was born

we felt certain we had that authentic pilgrim smell

and went 60-70 kilometres a day

and went towards the iron tower’s shadow

come buy our water blisters we called out to the people

one fine needle’s prick and the taste of burning’s gone

the french are very similar to the belgians after all

in bavaria live the most human of all dunderheads

could be due to the good malt beer

but could be too that christian philosophy only reinvents the wheet

all the time swollen tear-glands we wore round our necks

like heavy salt cowbells

going for days not finding lodging anywhere

0 why then did our mothers bear us if unable also to hatch houses on our backs?

a prison warder besides being a shoemake

for 12 hours stuck us under some straw from

its yellow concavities with spears tweezers real russian lances advancing towards us came

the lice

and yet it didn’t mean a thing

in distant coaches of the moon we slept to fluting sounds

someone upstairs was singing over and over

BOTH YOU DEARS ARE MY FOREFINGERS

mornings we drank black coffee around missus shoemaker’s skirt

she said what very nice hair I have

but closer to I reminded her of a fellow called igor

who 20 years ago drowned himself in the seine because of her

the black coffee gave us right priestly belly-ache and I promised

to send her a picture-postcard from paris

of two hands intertwined and a cooing pigeon

PARIS O PARIS where so many fine people have taken their lives

and who knows why

and her voice never stopped following me

in customs officers’ plaintive whistlings

in the chuckles of paris’ electric klaxons

laugh then little donkey

don’t you see you’re in the golden nest of life

now paris lulls us said szittya quite forgetting about his dose

once I wrung angels’ blood from the stars here

by comparison my mother’s milk was sodawater

out on your wings my friend

tomorrow we’re going to GRISETTE’S

tomorrow we’ll eat oysters on the boulevard italien and watch birds of electricity

tomorrow we’ll work our way through the tuileries

and the bar d’étoile

yes indeed

yes

I was so down-hearted and I could feel on my soré toes how the nails were growing

o aias

alas

straight towards me come miracles unshaven and unadorned

2X2=4

briar roses are opening everywhere

but modern-day horses have teeth of iron

and he who starts out in the morning cannot be sure of an evening homecoming

happiest is the man with reversible skin

because who can see out beyond himself

what we erect stays erected

but what we erect doesn’t mean a thing

rivers in a rush may break in pieces

two steps at a time is for sparrows not gentlemen

we all know women abandon their mates

the monkey-suited regard their derrieres in mr. goldmann’s mirror with profound satisfaction

perhaps if I knew how to play chess

but I don’t understand anything really

pork hams on roundabouts rotate in shop windows

I have seen paris and I have seen nothing

my pregnant girlfriend was at angyalföld station to meet me

my mother’s head had gone lemony from poverty

I wanted to laugh right there but felt so ashamed

wearing two pairs of trousers and no underpants

certainly a poet either constructs something to his own liking

or else should simply forget it and collect cigar-stubs

either

or

the sound is swallowed by the birds

but the trees go on singing

already sign of old age

but it doesn’t mean a thing

I LAJOS KASSSÁK am

and over our heads the nickel samovar is flying.

 

 

Artisans

(Mesteremberek)

 

We are not scientists nor pensive, eloquent prelates

nor are we heroes whom fifes-and-drums sent off to battle

and who now lie lifeless at the bottom of oceans, upon sunny mountains,

and in blasted fields all over, all over the whole world.

Under the blue sky-vault the hours now bathe in evil blood.

But we are already far from all this. We sit under the dark tenements:

silent and whole like indivisible matter itself.

Yesterday we still wept and tomorrow, tomorrow perhaps the century shall admire our work.

Yes! for fresh strength already booms from our ugly squat fingers,

and tomorrow we’ll drink to the topping off upon the new walls.

Tomorrow we throw life, shaped of asbestos, iron and immense granite, upon the ruins and away with the dream decorations, moonshine and music halls!

We shall build huge skyscrapers and, for a toy, a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Bridges with feet of basalt. New signs on the squares, from singing steel

and we’ll push screaming, fiery engines upon the dead rails,

to shine and run their courses like the dizzying meteors of the sky.

We’ll mix new colours and stretch new cables under the ocean

and we’ll impregnate the mature, unmated women so that the earth shall nurse a new race and the new poets who sing the new face of time in front of us shall

rejoice:

in ROME, PARIS, MOSCOW, BERLIN, LONDON and BUDAPEST.

 

 

The Dictator

(A diktátor)

 

He’s sunk forever. There’s no doubt.

Never has there been an uglier death,

never more implacable hate,

the cowards deserted him

and the flatterers betrayed him.

 

He stepped out from the forest of banners

and yelled and stamped his feet ominously

those who had eyes he sent to their death,

those who had tongues he sent to their death,

he wanted to spill

the blood of an entire nation

finally at last he lies crushed

in the snow, in urine, or under the flaming ruins.

 

Was he punished by having to kill himself,

Is he guilty, who killed him,

Has the world become any poorer

without those slave-driving days and those devastating nights?

No! No!

 

Now the black sky has split.

Now the new seed

quickens into life.

 

 

The Factory

(A gyár)

 

Its expanse is gigantic

a structure of engineering hot and cold continuously emitting

eager and frightful sounds like herds of elephants.

Once it was my home;

today it is the river of the past contaminated with oil and soot;

home to the people of tools and materials

who rebel at times

to tear a piece of bread

out of the iron

from the merciless machines

and from safes.

Its walls and gates

are black from the curses of generations.

Its huge chimney stacks

feed smoke to the wandering clouds.

Neither flowers nor birds have in their vicinity.

Humans alone are capable of survival hereabouts

 

Once it was my home;

the source of anguish and sorrows

I have not departed too far from you.

I still have no glasses with gilded frames

nor white collars with black bow-ties

I do not loiter about staring at shop windows

where lace panties and blood-red nail polish chant in unison.

With my glance.

I guard your indigenous laws

 

My weakened lungs

the ten fingers of my hands

the bent contour of my back

and one thousands five-hundred poems

born inside my heart

are blooming now with a reddish-black colour

and they all remind me of you.

 

Often on my I turn back to see

with open eyes with more of a gleam in my eyes

to see that you’re not the old monster

of stones and iron any longer.

You bathe in the rays of the sunlight

and dry yourself in linens of smiles.

You disgorge your filth

like someone who’s overstuffed himself

and you kindle the lamps

And prepare a bed for those who’re exhausted

 

You’re no longer as merciless

and so neither are you heavily bombarded with curces.

Those who enter your gates

aren’t trying to escape any more

 

Leaning against a post

I look at the streets stretching in front of the people

and the houses that welcome them

 

 

Like This

(Így)

 

Neither the interminable patches of land

nor crags with frozen stone-geometry

my true home is the city

with its gangrened damp-walled houses

with its chimney-stacks to scrawl the sky black

with its endlessly swarming crowds

with its knots of children yelling and squealing

with its half-bald dogs

with its amorous cats

with its rats emerging from nocturnal sewers.

And I love the feverishly clattering machines

bathed in oil

gorged in flames

workmen’s wood and iron constructions

looking like fearsome fireside pets.

Idols of my early days

that made me leave my birthplace

my school and church.

I have served them and praised them.

They became

goal of my vagabondage

seed of my verses.

Day and night I drum out their rhythm

and write my books

with my brain’s eternal discontent.