Poems by Zoltán Lesi
(Translated by Marc Baczoni)
Four, three, two
Don’t trust foreigners -
I'd rather hug an alien.
If they had arms, that is. They'd
never move in next door. It’s the Japs
I hate the most, up at dawn,
peacefully locking their doors at night.
Never leaving the house alone.
I can’t go out on the street any more,
work from home, get my food delivered.
The Japs would call that hikimori –
but at least they don’t try and change you.
My mum freaked out
when I wouldn’t open the door,
called the doctor, the two of them
battering away outside – the police
had to come and take them away.
That was four years, three months
and two days ago. No one’s been
to see me since. I’ve started learning
Japanese so I can finally tell them
just how much I hate them.
Ai Weiwei and the river crabs
Chinese propaganda says the people
should live in harmony and unity,
or hexie. The word sounds just the same
as river crabs (he xie), the Chinese symbol
for a community where criticism can only be
formulated indirectly. Ai Weiwei
invited people to his newly-finished
studio, whose planning permission
the city had just withdrawn. But his online
fan-base, the river crabs, were not afraid;
more than a thousand of them
came to protest as the host was placed
under house arrest in Beijing. A few months later,
the municipal authorities had the artist’s studio
demolished with no prior warning.
The Sukhumi Colony
The Sukhumi Colony was
a Soviet experimental lab
training space monkeys:
eight of them
made it into orbit.
The females they impregnated
with Stalin’s sperm, to build
the glorious Soviet future.
I was one of them but I was born
too late to volunteer for Mars.
When the separatists turned
the town upside down, I got out.
I dragged them off, the doctors
experimenting on me, and locked
them in a cage. Told them till
they built me a spaceship they’d have
nothing to eat but their own blood.
Later, I rounded up people
from other cities, too, for the project.
From time to time I would show them
I was King Kong, so they'd behave.
But now it seems of all things the flu’s
going to finish me off before
the launch site can be completed.
Zoltán Lesi (1982) lives and writes in Vienna/Austria and Budapest/Hungary. He published two books of poetry: Daphnis ketskéi (Daphnis' Goats), Merül (Diving) and a children’s book. His poetry is translated into German, English, Serbian and Polish. In 2016, he was distinguished with the Zsigmond Móricz, Mihály Babits and Akademie Schloss Solitude Scholarships.