Poems by János Térey
Sonja’s Journey from the Saxonia Cinema to Pirna Square
Statistics are not available.
We shall never know the number who made love
In Dresden that night.
Who, in what positions, what bedrooms?
The air-raid warning was shrill, no doubt,
But those bodies stayed together,
They pressed upwards, towards the sky,
Somewhere only halfway
Along the winding road.
Many wouldn’t draw apart even then.
Sonja Dressler and Veronika Möhring, for instance.
Sonja, a refugee from Breslau,
Shop assistant, sixteen years old,
Arrived here in town on Mardi Gras.
Glitter showers into her face, confetti down her neck.
It’s carnival time for children everywhere,
They stretch paper streamers across the road
And respond with noisy jubilation
When a passing tram breaks
Their sky blue finishing tape.
Sonja, to find some quiet, goes to
An average price cimena,
The Saxonia in Anna Street.
The seat next to her is taken by
Veronika Möhring, probably over thirty,
A war-widow by profession.
Already during the trailers, the palm of her hand,
Clings tight on to Sonja’s very shapely thigh.
Sonja gives a little shriek, but falls silent
At once, her neighbour is an expert predator,
Her search has reached her height of Sonja’s garters
But it will not settle there either.
She offered her sweet little inside and her tits
– Veronika ponders after the film
In a coffee-bar by the Post Office –,
But kissing was out of the question
In a public place.
„I’m not ready” – Sonja says.
„And anyhow, I haven’t got that.”
„Nonsense, my dearest.
I think you have that all the time.”
Veronika is happy, she has
The simple girl in her power. She thinks
That the simplicity, when it is not
The condition of the mind, but
The state of her heart, is a sure sign
Of the bloom of inexperience.
„Do you have somewhere to sleep? You don’t?
Perhaps she has never had a man,
Let alone a woman-lover.
Veronika’s windows look out on Pirna Square.
Normally the neon lights
Of the Commerzbank would shine beneath them,
But now, of course, there is a blackout.
This is that attractive house with the dome.
Sonja remembers seeing it as a little girl.
No time, not even to gulp down
The brandy that the hostess
Poured out into the heavy glasses.
Veronika proves to be highly accomplished
In the heart of „circular excitation”.
She scrolls the letters of the alphabet
On Sonja’s clitoris with her tongue,
Carefully, one after the other.
The next one would be M but the sirens
Begin their jagged, unmistakable shriek.
Veronika lies dead straight in the bed,
Her lean, sinewy body is tight,
She reminds Sonja of some insect,
More precisely of a praying mantis.
The insect of Lesbos keeps humming,
This is what it hums into Sonja’s ear:
„We should make love in the innards
Of the powder-keg, on this
Iron bed-stead, here in Pirna Square,
I want to do it in alphabetical order,
And in conclusion I would draw a Y and a Z.”
(Translated by Peter Zollmann)
What Would Have Happened, If
…There had been a different reel on the projector.
Say, of a postcard-town, like Prague or Graz,
Like heaven in Sunday-school picture books:
Spruced up, dense and ostentatious.
It would have no surprises in store, nothing to stun
Like the kick of a horse.
I would have walked through its galleries at the age of fifteen.
Later I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it.
Better reserve it for another time,
The way one reserves old bottles
For moments of celebration.
Something happened at last, something to talk about,
That’s my delicious excuse.
Dresden, the name, is only a cover. You will not find
Any town under it. Dresden does not exist.
One single cerebrum was enough to conceive the idea.
Sir Arthur Harris Air-Officer Commander-in-Chief
The Thunderclap air raid’s intellectual colossus
Chose a city which up until our story
Had endured only minor historic damage.
(It’s not true that none of the windows were broken.
It actually suffered unavoidable losses.)
Intimidation. The physical spectacle of air
Ascendancy; revenge for Coventry etc.
One Thunderclap will eradicate the remains of martial spirit
From the German nation.
A colossal rug will descend on Dresden
And impose its own pattern on the town.
As for Churchill, he disclaimed all responsibility,
What’s more, there was no mention of Thunderclap
In his victory speech.
Harris disgraced for the second time:
Amongst the successful Marshals, the only one not offered
A seat in the House of Lords.
Which – knowing the facts – seems a little unfair.
In Vág Street, Budapest, I quote,
Nonetheless, from Sir Arthur Harris.
I’ve opened a bottle of wine, although
I am not expecting guests. Note, Budapest was given up
To the Russians on the day Dresden was sent to hell.
It was Harris who persuaded me to tell you the story
This pretty chilly June.
My distinguished attention is all his tonight.
(Translated by Ágnes Lehóczky)
János Térey (1970) is arguably one of the most prolific and dynamic creative artist in Hungarian literature today. His energy and drive have repeatedly proved able to bring up to date and breathe new life into poetic genres that were forgotten and believed dead. Drawn to longer narratives, he wrote a novel in verse, Paulus, and a play-ballad, A Nibelung-lakópark (The Nibelung Housing Estate). The language of his poetry, which is one of the most distinct voices in contemporary Hungarian literature, has added a unique dash of color to contemporary European verse.