Poems by János Marno
(Translated by Dávid Marno)
“skeleton bird at four in the morning”
“Death, thou shalt die!”
“Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod.”
J. S. Bach
My death bores and disgusts me.
I slip on the stairs of
a basement shop, basal skull
fracture, my mouth is left
ajar, my soul flies out with a fly’s
sigh, to then crawl back into
the black hole as a carrion fly,
to lay its eggs under the dead tongue.
Black soldiers gather into formation,
to my torment, in the morning fog,
they remind of the dead,
of whom I took leave last night
at the coffeehouse, even though
I am not a coffeehouse person,
that lifestyle is alien to me,
more alien than life itself.
I prefer my words raw, to turn
them long in myself, to spike them
with my tongue onto my two eye-teeth,
then to become helpless with them
in my mouth sitting at a small table,
not even minding if at times they
press directly into my face,
appearing brave and destitute.
Donne was wrong: Death is ever-
lasting, only we, risen to life,
are capable of dying, to stretch out
on our red board one morning,
skeleton birds are circling around
our spine, and as we begin to recognize
our old Chestnut Park, we would rise
again, and start walking around,
and it doesn’t happen; our legs don’t carry us
back, or forward, the marrow under our skull
is parched, which is to say: our brain
has become clay, the cortex is like
tile, chapped, we are unwell,
it’s time therefore to stop
the piggeries. It’s time
to die properly, to return
to our quarters, under our tongue, where
amidst wanton sighs and moans
we laid our eggs in our dream.
The black soldiers received rabbit
goulash with savoy cabbage stew,
the smell is still thick in the fog,
which seems never to rise again.
I am distrait and ever more sullen.
Even the letters are becoming blurry
in this ear-piercing struggle,
I carry my corpse like Jean Valjean,
fleeing in my bowels from
the spider-bellied cop, Javert,
meanwhile I am terrified of showing up
dirty and panting and dead in front of
little Cosette, so I come to a halt
instead and smash the spider,
the moment it has caught up with us
in this sewer-twilight. You perish,
too, you wretched, hounding pest!
I’ll say something along these lines
to him, with a relatively impassive face,
and in an impassively rattling voice.
Then I suddenly break the silence,
I don’t yet know how, but I break it,
and if I still can’t manage to do so,
I find a corpse somewhere,
and get it to break it over there.
The poet slips into a hair shirt, in the bear’s
lair, where he killed the beast in its winter
sleep. Then he came down onto
the bloody ground, and fell asleep
next to the animal. Oh, Lord, up there
in the sky, or if not there since long, but
nested in the soul of all things
in the deep, from where to mine you out
no attention is capable anymore, let me
end like this, with my ten nails
and few teeth and tooth stumps
maul and tear apart my torpid
bear, which, if it happens to grunt,
I’ll mistake for the falling skies,
or for my own burned out, fossilized
bowels, where death is now dozing
off. And it might strike at me upon waking.
János Marno was born in 1949, and writing, reading (and drawing) were taught to him by his mother and grandmother way before he would have started school. It was his mother who contaminated him with the passion of reading, probably that's why he also started to write so early. “I don't know whether I am going to be able to give up on these passions before dying”, he says.