Márton Simon’s poems, “Open-Air” and “In the Best of Cases, South,” translated from the Hungarian by Timea Balogh, appear in the Michigan Quarterly Review’s Fall 2019 issue.
We talk in English, even though Katharine is German,
but I don’t speak German—most of my family
speaks it, and I wanted to be irreplaceable,
so I started learning English,
that’s how the rest of them became irreplaceable.
It’s going pretty well, though better for Katharine.
After three drinks, she invites me to go on a trip with her south,
to go without thinking, like her.
I could say anything right now,
and she would take it seriously.
I say, let’s keep drinking, I’ll pay.
She tells me about the trees
in the nearby park, points to them,
identifies them—she knows what she’s talking about,
she’s a biologist.
She says this all in English, gives new names to the trees,
smiles. I identify my feelings,
I should invent new names for them,
it’s been too long since I’ve felt someone’s touch.
After the fifth drink, she invites me to Germany,
tells me to move in with her, forget everything here.
I grasp for an excuse, there’s not much keeping me here
but my mother tongue: I’m afraid of losing it.
I smile. I ask if she wants to sleep at my place.
Meanwhile, I’m not thinking about tongues, but a mouth,
no, not yours. No, no.
In the Best of Cases, South
For K.I., with respect
In the best of cases, I seldom need to talk to my loved ones.
It wears on me that I can only answer their questions with lies.
Without their advice, I believe more and more that, like wild
instinct will take me south, but I don’t really know.
Where is this south?
I don’t consider my words to be worth very much,
though in this country they say light came to be
when someone said just one word. Of course, I can say whatever I
there won’t be any light. This is how far I’ve gotten:
sometimes I say there’s a way out, and after saying it, it seems like
Of course, there isn’t. That’s not how it works.
Though I could part with anything. In the best of cases,
I could let go of light with a word or two.
I should put this off, because it’s easy, for instance,
to write autumn, when you can compare something to anything.
Or maybe just my things.
But right now, it’s spring. Right now, in the best of cases,
the night is always a little longer than fear.
Read more poetry from our special issue on Europe here.