Languages we don't speak, Compost & The bright boys
by András Imreh
[ poetry - february 04 ]
Translated by Anne Talvaz
Languages we don't speak
As so often, choose silence. Choose tactics.
If you're asked: "What will you start with", swallow
- no, not the wine yet, just the answer:
"Perhaps some muscatel...?"
Try grappa, cuvée, bull's blood,
les vins de barrique,
but then: self-discipline. Hang
around the sandwiches, eat if someone's coming, but in silence,
because the old adjectives - good, fine, exquisite -
are like a spy's curse on the language.
And the professional ones, like full-bodied, tender, acidic
are perilous for those
who don't feel taste any more, only a slight dizziness.
What you can do is drink, memorize. The trick words.
Like leafing through a book instead of reading it,
you can plan that one day, next time,
- in different company, between different walls -
"nice wine", you'll say, gazing into the distance,
or raising it to the light, you'll say:
"This really works."
It's not worth doing. Next time,
in different company, between different walls,
there'll be another language you don't speak. What does he
take after, you'll be asked. He'll be raised to the light.
They'll coo. He'll gurgle. Small
wrists will turn. Then
choose silence. Choose tactics. Swallow.
"This really works."
Grass won't turn into straw.
It shrinks stickily, viscously,
like plastic in fire.
Then it will be grey and crusty and dense,
like slate or a muesli bar. On the crust
there's eggshell, withered geranium and
coffee grounds. When it rains
it steams like shivering dogs.
If you think about it it's the disgrace of the garden.
But if you drew the estate's centre
of gravity, it would be
there, yes, over there, in the corner -
our desert, buried capital,
The bright boys
You can't really miss us.
We're the ones who tick you off
if you smoke on a train.
After two days at school
we put up our right hands
even at home.
We take a taxi
to return the sour milk
to the shop.
Tyrants of objects,
slaves of objects,
we quietly slip a beer mat
under our guests'
We always get caught.
We're the ones, yes,
who tell Stalin jokes
in the lavatories. We
are the defendants,
who get hard time,
for talking back.
We're not heroes!
It's just the way we are.
We're afraid of silence.
That's why we keep asking
or dentists' chairs,
on midnight dates.
We lisp a bit.
You can always find us:
wherever you open
a complaints book
our name is there.