For Frank Barnaby
How distant: like vultures. The multiplying patrol
of military satellites encircles
the green and throbbing earth in patient precision.
And all has been said. And nothing has been resolved.
Our leaders are lost. The poets stare in silence.
The conference halls are filled with warnings defining
in glaring blindness the final peril of war.
The libraries are the mass graves of our finest words
prescribing cautious strategies for survival.
Our greedy means have soared beyond our purpose.
The priests have lowered their gaze to watch the countdown.
Our missiles are primed and humming: aimed at ourselves.
Is this the conclusion, the end of all the millennia,
the logical ending never intended? – My love,
come hold my hand, let's call the children together
and lay the table, my love, and crown the hour
because the earth is giving birth to the future.
This is the end of the era of blood-drenched towers.
Humanity (you and I and the neighbours) must choose
how to use our marvellous powers – and either die
by our science or fulfil the ancient ideal
and deploy our plans to tame and enrich this planet.
And the choice is there in the simple logic of children,
the warmth of your hand and even in these very lines.
If the shadow of towering missile systems should fall
across your face, do not wilt in dejection.
For even the tallest of towers cannot grow as tall
as human projection.
Thomas Ország-Land was a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who wrote from London and his native Budapest. His last book was Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust (Smokestack, 2014).
Lurking low in the village pool
the hungry crocodile hid the fool.
Poor fool, his life was only a trifle
and no-one bothered to lift a rifle –
till, to everyone's public grief,
the crocodile chose the local chief.
In memoriam Jaroslav Ježek
The leaders of nations
have sown new notions
of treating unwanted
child of a death camp,
you – and the future:
You’ ll lose all you own.
Even life is on loan.
Don’t cry. Be cautious.
Be canny. Be clever,
and never, but never,
but never forget it.
hold up your head
...while you’ve got it.
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar