Miklos Radnoti, Postcard 4

(translated by Jo Harding)


I fell beside him. His body rolled over
tight as a spring before it snaps.
Shot in the neck. “This is how
you’ll die”. “Just lie quietly”
I whispered to myself.
Patience flowers into death.
“Der springt noch auf”
I heard above me.
Muddied blood was drying on my ear.  


[“Der springt noch auf” means something like “Just wait till he bursts open”. Springen is also used to describe a bud blossoming.]


Our Allotment

(After Milosz, The Gift)

I am content, digging our allotment.
A robin stands guard on the spade handle;
a worm sidewinds across the dark earth.
Whatever pains I had, have gone.
I do not envy bankers their bonuses,
trading their lives for more.
To   remember myself as I once was
no longer embarrasses me.
The low mist under Longridge Fell lifts.
The loft of racing pigeons wheels away.
All will be well today.


Jorge Luis Borges,  Rain
(translated by Jo Harding)

Suddenly the evening has cleared
yet the raindrops still fall.
Fall or fell. Rain is surely
something which happens in the past.

Whoever hears it falling must have
remembered a time when by chance
they are reminded of a flower named rose
and the curious shades of its colouring.   

This rain which blinds the windowpane
will brighten the black grapes on a vine
in some forgotten suburbs in some

backyard which no longer exists. The drenched
evening brings me the voice, the longed for voice
of my father who returns, and has never died.




The Little Mistake

I once met a mistake in a pub
who was slowly getting drunk
trying to prove it wasn’t a mistake.

It wrote to the newspapers
stood on street corners stating its case
complained to its MP
applied for judical review
petitioned the Queen.

Nothing worked
people paid no attention
they didn’t care
What’s one more mistake?

It locked itself in its house
it drew the curtains
it sulked
it stopped eating
it no longer got out of bed.

Nobody noticed
they were too busy
with their frantic lives
What’s one more mistake

after Afghanistan, Iraq
oil spills, the banking crisis
global warming?





The clouds cry
on the river, sometimes
on the grateful earth.

The willow weeps
green leaves
at the river’s edge
telling its deep sadness.

The river stretches
to reach the sea
not caring that it will lose itself
in the indifferent ocean.

Clouds, willow, river
all endure long after
we have gone, not knowing
that we were here.




A Larch

Maybe I will plant a larch
as a symbol of my love for you;
feed, water, nurture it.
Maybe in a few years time
in innocence a lumberjack will
fell the tree.

Maybe a papermill will make
the fibres into a beautiful notebook.
In that notebook maybe
someone will write a poem
about the one they love.

Maybe this is that poem.




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