Poems by Árpád Kollár
Not in Sarajevo
you cannot be a tourist in sarajevo
who, spittle drooling, takes inventory
of the appurtenances of horror
you cannot shove your palm
into the crevices left by grenades
as if in the millennial stones of the wailing wall
you would conceal your message
in Sarajevo you cannot be a sarajevan
in Sarajevo you cannot know
what you could be and what you would have been
in Sarajevo every morning you arrive and
adherence falls due once darkness descends
in sarajevo the trees are the most naïve
into the bare firewalls they plunge
their tentative roots
and they absorb the bricks more greedily
than young girls the force of life
in sarajevo the little trees do not bother
the hundred-year oaks sit with
tranquility in their tenant spots
they are not troubled
the city just now being built up or destroyed
to slowly exchange my shelter for leafy bowers
in sarajevo wise little trees only breathe
suck in the bricks
diligently they grow
for they are aware
around here you can never know
sarajevo burned for two days
the library all at once
I tell the story here at home for two days
my friend repeats with a shudder
to measure quantity through time
two days’ worth of books and manuscripts
we should echo them
all the while we have no idea
how long the average body takes to burn
(Translated by Ottilie Muzlet)
(If You Slam the Door…)
If you slam the door, your flesh will open,
if you smash it, every fury will close.
In your eyes are yellow wreaths, pupils struck by airstream,
puddles of tiredness. The Armenians are passing by
inside that mirror, a column, a stumbling.
Nothing happened today, nothing happened
tomorrow, your gipsy skin reaches just to the object.
If you kick your leg into that door, a little girl will burst into tears,
if you finally half-close it, that little girl will abort.
Circular River Bank
After a big flood, the city is imbued. Here and there five,
six metres of earth, disappeared streams, ditches, thrown off joists.
The parterre of the remaining buildings has sunk into the ground level.
Our four girls will be in that city.
Obstacles at the gateways, at the windy passages, neurotic,
blonde girls, similar to me.
We turn four polished faces towards the ground,
that way I will fully come back from inside you.
I am lazy and selfish. You have to infuse obstructed waters,
saltpetre basement, to tailor the street side.
Instead of exile, let’s glut ourselves with the decking,
the eye of God on the house, rustic putties.
In the imbued city, a church on a landslide, a circular river bank.
The Warmth of the Body
With the egg of a Ural owl in your pocket, you climb. You climb
the blunt edge of a rock, the resinous bark, you climb on the uneven
surface of the landscape’s prominent things.
The impossible possibility of four spotted eggs. The thing you never thought of,
that you couldn’t meet, from which some careful fear kept you away. Knock,
hard shells are knocking like male friendships.
Afternoons of boredom are knocking and you didn’t wait
for the shot in a wall of an eye orbit, and everything you would call home
quickly hard-boils, inside the pocket, with the warmth of the body.
Who thinks of you is climbing down, in the mouth white, in the mouth yellow
insipid bites. To bend closer to an imaginary place. For long you palpate
like the wet surface of star-like moss.
Who thinks of you easily with strong claws blinds light-minded robbers.
(Translated by Serena Todesco)
Árpád Kollár was born Yugoslavia in 1980. He currently lives in Hungary. He earned degrees in theory of literature and sociology from the University of Szeged, where he is pursuing his doctoral studies. His book Milyen madár (Which Bird) received the award of Children’ Book of the Year in Hungary. He has two volumes of poetry published.