Gyula Jenei: Cemetery

at first i go with my father to the cemetery, we rarely go.
i am afraid, among the graves, that if i tread on any
spongy or freshly raked little mound of earth,
i will hurt the dead, and god will punish me for it.
apart from the herd path, in the old section, we approach
my grandfather’s grave. my father will hold my hand as i look
at the carved stone, where another name will be carved too,
without a death date, the name of my grandmother,
who still cooks soup at home, bakes pancakes.
by then the gold on the engraving will be slightly worn,
the light will cast a shadow, which will tumble down
on the surrounding graves, one of which will belong
to an infant, and at the time i will not be able to grasp
how a person can live just three years. my father’s father
will then be dead only ten years, and my own father,
when i write this later, over twenty years ago. of course
ten years can be almost as many as twenty years
are few. the past wears down slowly, our lost words
sprout continually from the subconscious. we stand,
my father and i, by his father’s grave; at this point
i would go home, but i love the smell of the cemetery,
and if i shut my eyes, i can later evoke that sharp eternal
green fragrance. behind my eyelids the firebugs move,
stuck together in pairs, although it is possible that i just
imagine them over there from the schoolyard, the cracks
in the sidewalk, the vine on our whitewashed house,
that is, from childhood, my childhood, where i stand forever
and ever with my father before his father’s grave. my father
takes my hand, and talks, and talks. and sad is the sound
of his voice, and as for my own, i do not know.

 

The original poem, “Temető,” appears on pages 19–20 of Gyula Jenei’s 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más (Szeged: Tiszatáj könyvek).

Gyula Jenei (born in 1962 in Abádszalók, Hungary) is a poet, writer, editor, and educator. As founder and editor of the quarterly literary magazine ESŐ (translatable as “Rain” or “Falling”), he has brought literature and literary events to the Szolnok area for over twenty years. His poems and other writings comprise thirteen books; the poems translated here are from his acclaimed 2018 collection Mindig más (“Always Different”).

Temető

Jenei Gyula

eleinte apámmal járok a temetőbe. ritkán megyünk.
félek a sírok között, hogy ha rálépek valamelyik
süppedt vagy frissen gereblyélt kis földkupacra,
az fájni fog a halottnak. és megbüntet érte az isten.
a csordajárás felől, a régi temetőrészen át közelítjük meg
nagyapám sírját. apám fogja a kezem, amíg nézem
a faragott követ, ahová nyitott évszámmal föl lesz vésve
nagyanyám neve is, aki pedig még otthon főzi majd
a levest, süti a palacsintát. a vésetben addigra kicsit
megkopik az arany. a fény árnyékot vetít, s az rézsút
rádől a környező sírokra, amelyek közül az egyik
egy csecsemőé lesz, és akkor még nem értem,
hogy lehet mindössze három napig élni. apám apja
akkor még csak tíz éve lesz halott, apám meg, mikor
majd írom ezt, húsz évnél is régebben. tíz év persze
szinte ugyanolyan sok lehet, mint amilyen kevés
a húsz. a múlt lassan kopik, a tudatalattiból pedig
folyton kicsírázik összes elvétett szavunk. állunk
apámmal az apja sírjánál, én mennék már haza, pedig
a temetőszagot szeretem, s ha becsukom a szemem,
később is felidézhetem azt a fanyar örökzöldillatot.
szemhéjam mögött összeragadt bodobácsok
mozdulnak, bár lehet, hogy csak odaképzelem őket
az iskolaudvarról, a járdák repedéseiből,
fehérre meszelt házunk faltövéből, szóval
a gyerekkorból, a gyerekkoromból, ahol már örökre
ott állok apámmal az ő apjának a sírja előtt. apám
fogja a kezem, és beszél, és beszél. és szomorú lesz
a hangja, és az enyém nem tudom, milyen.

Jenei, Gyula. “Temető.” Mindig Más (Szeged: Tiszatáj könyvek, 2018), 19–20.

Diana Senechal

Diana Senechal

Diana Senechal is the author of Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies (2018) and Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (2012). Her translations of the poetry of Tomas Venclova are featured in his books Winter Dialogue (1997) and The Junction (2008). A member of the ALSCW Council and a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, she teaches at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. In addition to teaching, writing, and translating, she serves in a cantorial role at the synagogue Szim Salom in Budapest, plays the cello, memorizes poems in various languages, and takes long bike rides through the Hungarian plains and hills.
Diana Senechal

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Author: Diana Senechal

Diana Senechal is the author of Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies (2018) and Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (2012). Her translations of the poetry of Tomas Venclova are featured in his books Winter Dialogue (1997) and The Junction (2008). A member of the ALSCW Council and a Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, she teaches at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. In addition to teaching, writing, and translating, she serves in a cantorial role at the synagogue Szim Salom in Budapest, plays the cello, memorizes poems in various languages, and takes long bike rides through the Hungarian plains and hills.