ATTILA JOZSEF,1932-Night on the outskirts

Night on the outskirts.

 Slowly the light’s net is lifted

Out of the yard, and our kitchen

Fills with darkness

Like the hollows deep in a pool.

Silence –

The scrubbing brush creeps to life,

Above it, a patch of wall

Hesitates, hangs, not sure

Whether to stay or fall.

 A night that wears oily rags

Heaves a sigh,

Halts in the sky;

Then settles on the outskirts,

Waddles over the square

And lights a bit of moon to see by.

 Like ruins the factories loom.

But inside them a denser gloom

Even now is being produced. It sets,

A foundation for silence.

Through the windows of textile mills

Fly moonbeams in sheaves –

Moon thread till morning weaves

On motionless looms a fabric

Of girl workers’ dreams.

 Farther on, like a cloistered graveyard,

The foundry, bolt makers, cement works

Echoing family crypts.

Too well these workshops keep

The secret of resurrection.

A cat’s claws on the fence;

And the simple night-watchman sees

A ghost, a flashing signal.

Coolly gleam

The beetle-backed dynamos.

A train whistle blows.

Dampness seeps into

The shadows, the boughs

Of a fallen tree.

The dust on the road grows heavy.

In the street a policeman,

A muttering workman, pass.

Now and then a comrade

Flits past with leaflets –

Keen as a dog on the track ahead,

Listening, cat-like, for noises behind him;

avoiding the lamps.

The tavern door belches out

A tainted light, its windows

Vomit, leaving puddles.

Inside, a half-stifled lamp

Slowly swings,

A solitary labourer keeps awake.

While the inn-keeper snores and wheezes,

He bares his teeth at the wall,

His grief climbs the stairs. He weeps,

Cries out for the revolution.

Cold metal, the water clinks.

A stray mongrel, the wind

Wanders. Its great tongue hangs

To touch the water, and laps it.

Straw mattresses are the rafts

That drift on night’s currents.

The warehouse’s hulk is aground.

In the foundry’s iron dinghy

The smelter dreams red babies

Into the metal moulds.

All is damp, and heavy.

Mildew draws a map

Of misery’s regions.

And there, on the dry meadows,

Rags and paper litter

The ragged, papery grass.

How they would whirl and fly!

They stir, but inertia holds them.

Night, your sluggish breeze

Is a flapping of soiled sheets.

Like frayed muslin to cord

You cling to the old sky,

As wretchedness clings to life.

Night of the poor, be my coal,

Smoulder here on my heart,

Melt the iron in me, to make

An anvil that never will split,

A hammer that clangs and glints,

A smooth blade for victory, night!

Grave this night is, and heavy.

I too shall sleep now, my brothers.

May our souls not be smothered by want.

Nor our bodies be bitten by vermin.



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