Forced March

By Miklos Radnoti

Published August 05, 2005, issue of August 05, 2005.
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Crazy. He stumbles, flops, gets up, and trudges on again.

He moves his ankles and his knees like one wandering pain,

then sallies forth, as if a wing lifted him where he went,

and when the ditch invited him in, he dare not give consent,

and if you were to ask why not? perhaps his answer is

a woman waits, a death more wise,more beautiful than this.

Poor fool, the true believer: for weeks, above the rooves,

but for the scorching whirlwind, nothing lives or moves:

the housewall’s lying on its back, the prunetree’s smashed and bare;

even at home, when dark comes on, the night is furred with fear.

Ah, if I could but believe it: that not only do I bear

what’s worth the keeping in my heart, but home is really there:

if it might be!–as it once was, on a veranda old and cool,

where the sweet bee of peace would buzz, prune marmalade would chill,

late summer’s stillness sunbathe in gardens half-asleep,

fruit sway among the branches, stark naked in the deep,

Fanni waiting at the fence blonde by its rusty red,

and shadows would write slowly out all the slow morning said–

but still it might yet happen! The moon’s so round today!

Friend, don’t walk on. Give me a shout and I’ll be on my way.

— MIKLOS RADNOTI September 1944

(Translated and reprinted with the permission of Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner.)

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