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Gravel and Reeds

by Gabor Schein
Translated from Hungarian by
Ottilie Mulzet

Will nothing now ever break
the evening’s cast weight?
I’m prisoner of a muted word,
a cry which can’t get out of my throat.
My breath is gravel and reeds.
Unknown spirits reside in my castle of words,
as there in the windswept world, where
no living heart may arrive.
Winding amid spinning desire,
giving birth to oneself, motherless, stuck
in the birth canal. But while from the darkness
wave breaks upon wave thick and grey,
stabbing beneath my ribs with every intake of breath,
at last I begin to see myself. There is no other hope
than for the despondent suffixes to
penetrate into the bones, and to attain
the wakeful nights within them: the body
lies there chilled on the operating table.

Gábor Schein is one of the most significant poets to emerge in the post-1989 generation. In addition to being a highly respected literary historian and dramatist, he is significant as an unflinching explorer of the Jewish presence in post-Holocaust Hungary, particularly in his novel Lazarus (2006).
Ottilie Mulzet is a Hungarian translator of poetry and prose, as well as a literary critic. Her translation of Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s most recent novel, Seiobo There Below (New Directions), won the Best Translated Book Award in 2014. Other translations include Szilard Borbély’s The Dispossessed and Gábor Schein’s Lazarus.