Four Poems

Szilárd Borbély

The Immaterial Embryo

The human face is capable of expressing approximately
two hundred different emotive states with its mimicry.
An infant is capable of emitting that many
different sounds. For spoken communication, however,

only a few dozen are necessary. The rest are forgotten.
A child does not learn the rules of grammar, but
hears incorrect patterns of speech. And from the errors,
induces the proper usage. Later on,

personality develops, also through language. And so that
the I will not be consumed in the crematorium,
before incineration, the large tendons of the body,

placed upon the marble slab, are sliced apart, and the skull
is trepanned so it will not explode. In the end
the thighbones still must be ground to a fine white dust.

To Patience

Words give us instructions
as to what may be endured.
For everything can be withstood
if the words instruct:

there is nothing that exists
more than its own self.
There is nothing within God
that would be more than

Form. And inside, the waiting
endures the words' absence.
Language was there before God,
so in patience it instructs,

even if patience were nothing
more than the Form of Words.

To Trust

Agathon held a stone in his mouth
for three years, until he learned the art
of silence. When he knew how to be quiet

he decided that now he would study
patience. But he didn't have the patience for it. Someone
was always irritating him. If only I could

live alone!—he said. So he withdrew
to the desert. He carried water from afar.
One day, while he was filling his jug,

it was upset. He filled it again. But
again it was upset. He tried a third time,
in vain. Suddenly, his patience was used up,

and he was upset. He smashed his earthen
vessel. Later on he came back to his senses
and asked it for forgiveness. And the jug

forgave him. And instructed him: "Have
faith in no one! There is no feeling more injurious
than trust. It is the begetter of every passion!"—

spoke the crockery. Agathon then returned
to the world of people. And lo and behold, from then on
he was wise in comprehension, tireless in work,

sparing with food. "Be as the dog,
who leaves when he is pestered." And so he left,
when he grew weary of the world's vexations. 

To Material (Rough Draft)

As the flesh tightens across the bone,
so does evening bend into the arch. The weight
hangs upon the string, as the eyelid

grows heavy at the sight. Weighty, like the sway
of the earth in heaven's depths. Suddenly
the star-filled heavens above

veer away. For evening has come, and it falls below,
brushing against faces, its frozen hand does not
mold the form concealed in substance.

It travels in the void, like dust, like specks of dirt,
cast upon waves of sun-fringe. Remnants
of material in place of the eye.

Then not even that. Stubborn muscle-
tissue below the rent frame.
Incomprehensible words reach into the heart.

Why bother with the love that shall
follow, like dew after the night.
As tears seep down after pain.

It runs along the leaf's vein to the end, and falls
from the needle-pointed tip. The earth grows dense,
the grass above sinks down. Only gravity

is present, this strange affinity
towards the body, in the body. It attracts
and repels itself, like a God, everywhere.

translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet

Click here to read an interview with Szilárd Borbély by László Bedecs, translated by Szabolcs László, also from this issue.