Normandy, Hey!

Poems of the Hungarian Holocaust translated and edited by Thomas Ország-Land (May 2014)

 

I.

Jenö Heltai (1871-1957):

ARS POETICA:

 

Do not wait till you’re invited.

Poet, claim your place

on the rostrum. Warn the neighbours

of the threat they face.

Share your heart with their cold world.

Share each fear, each scar.

Shed your armour, shed your clothes:

show all that you are.

 

Do not wait until you’re silenced

never to sing again.

Never, ever, hold your tongue.

Bellow out your pain.

 

Watch the racist rabble-rousers.

Mark the lies they spawn –

The night is long and dark and deadly,

but expect the dawn.

 

Slanders hurt... but your song is true.

It will outlive any lie.

Drink up your poison if you must,

but sing until you die.

 

 

II.

István Vas (1910-1991):

THE COLOURS THAT DAY

 

The soldier is tanned and blond, his car and tunic green.

His silken hound is brown and bright and cheerful.

Bound from Paris to Moscow, stranded here,

he regards our streets with mild but blatant loathing.

 

The traffic light turns red. The vehicle must stop.

The driver sighs, looks blank. His thoughts race far away.

A gent approaches, pandering to the German,

his balding bloated head aglow with zeal.

 

He speaks too loud: Sie fahren nach Astoria?...

He asks with feeling. But he is ignored.

He is bent to the window, his brow haloed in sweat,

proud to serve our grand and glorious ally.

 

The light has turned again to amber and to green.

The gent attending to the German fails to notice.

He waves his arms about, eliciting

impatient, disapproving reservation.

From the parting car, the hound still holds

our friendly guide in keen, Teutonic gaze.

The sun breaks through. Its yellow rays ignite

the identifying Yellow Stars Jews must display.

 

For a moment, the murder, the pain, the fear that smear

this, our 20th century after Jesus... and

even its savage heartbeat are suspended.

A newsboy cries out: Normandy, Hey! They’ve landed.

 

 

THESE poems will be included in Survivors, an anthology of Holocaust poetry in Thomas Land’s translation to be published by Smokestack Books, England, in June. More Holocaust poetry in his translation appear in the landmark Bloodaxe anthology The 100 Years’ War released also in England at the end April.

 

________________________

 

THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes from London and his native Budapest. His poetry appears in current, forthcoming or very recent issues of Acumen, Ambit, The London Magazine, The Jewish Quarterly and Stand.

 


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