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Sándor Csoóri

Sándor Csoóri

A Hidden Self-Portrait

They took me for a Gypsy? I let them.
For a Cumanian? a Spaniard? a Tartar?
I just smiled with slit eyes:
inside me, a flock of birds was flying about.

And I was the wing, too, and the sky, too,
a face beyond my face in the blue;
my fist in the Moon: a cramped fetish,
an angry Negro god in the myths.

What I had been through: that was me,
different pleasures, different woes each day;
in the vicinity of death there's a lot of wind,
summer-swishing and a flood of snow,

bones of armies dug up
there, where the chamomile-filled meadows
look back, remembering and revolted
into winters with cannons.

The forest of Bakony at my back,
Prague and Warsaw's forehead light,
one-thousand-year-old rain walks
before me in an end-of-May night

and I get drenched in it, soaked to the bone,
a rumpled man with peonies;
the next day's wind replaces
my wanderer's face with a sunny sky.

A Wind-Crown on My Head

Black-footed rains chasing me,
I'm running towards you—where else would I run?
A hundred dead pigeons swarm my room—
it's not a place where I could calm down.

Wind-crown on my head,
fog-glitter where my heart was—
if I can't find you: this cast-off feeling
will find comfort with somebody else.

The moon hasn't been out for seven days,
water-leaves are falling from the autumn trees—
you're a traitor! From the blue window of love
you don't even wave to me.

Translated by Len Roberts and Mária Szende


The devastation caused by mud and water in spring,
the devastation by mud and water in my heart,
the sweet country gone, love gone,
the cart camp of stars scattered, overturned.

Flower heads and stones in the desert,
my scattered dead, who just yesterday lived,
my shame for you is ablaze, a Pentecostal sand-pall,
for only I have survived.

Grass-plague, weed-pestilence spreads everywhere—
Who will forgive my future without you?
my body's convulsive selfishness without you,
and that I keep singing, keep singing, even with a muddied mouth?

Translated by Len Roberts and Anette Márta

I Hunt Yellow Bird

Don't board the train yet, stay there in my village.
Let me daydream about you a while these days at the end of August.
I see you in front of the shade-drinking fence, you're running into the garden,
now the soup only needs leek stems and parsley.
The trees' eyelids are shut, like the listless hens,
but from you they fly up, they want to run in a hundred different directions.
You hustle like the poor for whom endless labor waited,
and as an inheritance they have left nothing else, just this rushing about.
the Sun: a humming top, a child's toy on the sky's table.
I wonder if you sometimes think of the invisible fingers spinning it,
or my wondering eyes? Or can't you afford even this little bit
out of your time? You rush around in place of my mother, and is this what you must confess?
Clouds of dust rise from the old vine-soil when you thrust your hoe into it.
My past, too, raises dust, my childhood awakens,
and in front of you, unexpected, leap my abandoned faces.
One of them, startled, from the attic stairs half-dark;
another from behind the sudden rains, when the storm's apple plops,
and the glad water frothily runs, as I, long ago, used to run.
Day by day the time I may spend with you grows less,
so I make up for tomorrow's loss out of my past:
for your sake, I keep throwing stones, I climb over the garden's heavenly wall,
I hunt a yellow bird, a Moon-pestering pigeon,
the wind will secretly stitch my torn clothes together.

Don't board the train yet, stay there in my village.
Because of you, the people who live there are kinder—
I see you draw the water, and I hear the well speak to you,
like an underground sea that slept among the stones.

Translated by Len Roberts and Lászlo Vertes

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Len Roberts

Len Roberts

Sándor Csoóri , translated by Len Roberts:

Selected Poems of Sándor Csoóri, trans. Len Roberts (1992) Copper Canyon Press.

Before and After the Fall, trans. Len Roberts (2004) BOA Editions.

Poetry collections by Len Roberts:

Black Wings, a National Book Award winner (out of print)

The Silent Singer: New and Selected Poems (2001) U. of Illinois Press.

The Trouble-making Finch (1998) U. of Illinois Press

Counting The Black Angels (1994) U. of Illinois Press

The Disappearing Trick, will be out in 2006 from U. of Illinois Press.