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Two Poems

Agnes Lehoczky

White Night 8

A sharp change in altitude. Your eardrums throb so the airhostess offers you sweets to suck and eat and encourages you to chew and swallow. Carriage by carriage, the train zooms by a monstrous tower-block remembered from the deposit of several thick overnight snowfalls. A giant mountain range formed by metamorphic rocks, reigning over the January horizon. Its concrete storeys randomly collaged. Strata of snow. Are there such things? Snowbound streets and courtyards rising like dough with the hour. Or like an air balloon, bursting into your room through the window, a gigantic puffed face. The left sleeve of your winter coat lifts itself. Your face melts into the gloss of the hoar frosty glass. You breathe in and out. All at once it blurs. Because of that sharp puff on the glass. You blow all the leaves off the magnolia tree. They scatter like black and brown Indian Runner Ducks in the snow.  You reiterate the names of towns from the very last carriage of the train.  For another fading face, another forest to be erased with transparent ink from the landscape and then forgotten. The last thing you would want is to freeze thirty thousand feet above sea level. Above cloud-level. You drop your woolly hat into the abyss of the courtyard. Then your compass. Then your torch. For how much longer will you sleep-hike? Pass me that old tube of oil pastel, tempera, chalk, a handful of snow, a pot of transparent ink. You adjust to the direction of the train inching away from Siula Grande. Look, there, the end of the rope, cut with a hiss. Is that a kite or you flapping on the other end of it, your flimsy figure fluttering in white frost? Throwing your papery body upwards, you parachute, like the sleeve of a winter coat. This one will be a controlled descent with semi-rigid wings, you think. Is there a difference between narcolepsy and insomnia in the end? Between cloud-level and sea-level? The North Wind creeps in and out through your nostrils. A gentle tap on your shoulder. An azure-eyed, slender inspector murmurs into your ears as the train, window by window, reels in to your final destination. Is this the place you were looking for? he asks. You pull your red suitcase after your shadow rolling it through a puddle of last year’s sleet. Fiddling with a cocoon in your pocket, with the dry skin of a Capuchin monk, with twenty-four talismans of friendship. These paper-thin sentences always give you hope. The parched body of a moth you picked up the other day from the floor mistaking it for a brooch, is in your thoughts. A handful of soft soil leaking from your palms. A line of white geese in the snow, a necklace crafted from white-gold resting against skin. A line of black crows pecking the frosty earth. One effaces the other. Illuminates and then eliminates.

from Rememberer, published in 2011 by Egg Box Publishing.


Treble and Tenor at an Early Summer Dinner Table in Crookes

Do you notice how light the evenings have become, each weighing less than a thousand grams? Past nine the night that’s circular like inside an enormous bronze bell. Inside a round room of a thought, rimmed by Crookes’s undulating hills. Those first summer evenings always turn into never darkening ones, weighty frequencies of conversations evaporate into insubstantial silence and early suppers multiply after one single course of numerous unfinished courses leaving light bulbs to flicker, taps to drip, bell clappers to swing and the night to levitate between dusk and dawn so that we can never go to sleep.  In Crookes days become nightless and turn into some quiet solipsistic sobbing. More so then, they sob and gulp and swing so that the neighbours on each side will wonder what day it actually might be. These oval tables invite only a few selected guests into the hollow of our louvered windows. Or creatures of any kind. Owls from Nether Edge for example twitching their huge round heads. It is so bright we’d better close the shutters. They carry on blinking with heavy eyelids while you’re on retreat, always already eternal. They would sit at the table waiting for your return. How did they get trapped inside? The quiet Yorkshire nurse and her teacher husband would wonder, those two large feathery bodies. The two Papillons and the tiny baby in the pushchair, puzzled too. Why don’t I just turn the tap off and pull the ropes of bells, they would wonder, and announce that someone has gone missing in the blinding brightness of early summer nights? These taps often flood the aura of the kitchen letting the dishwater trickle outside saturating the tiny mossy square of the backyards of Crookes. And it is all because I wanted you to cross the borders of this city, its impalpable venations, invisible thresholds running a few hundred metres underground. To be a courier carrying no news, trespassing borders of numb utterances. Horizontovertical margins. Those disparate districts of one’s circular mind. And start it all over again, the remembering of everyone, over there, wherever, somewhere else, the same. The forgetting them. Is it like plugging the hole of undraining bath tubs? Unpluggable seas. Pulling changing rings. And being pulled by them. Everyone has his or her own cord. But bells are not pendulums. In the moment when I am up in the air you are not stuck on the frozen ground. And each cord has its own attachments. Treble will not negate tenor’s mind. Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if you cut all cables and lines? If all cup-shaped cast metal resonators of the world fell silent? Look, those owls, twitching their heads again. Calling up, then calling down. Three to treble. Five to two. Three to lead. Always those damned changes of keys in the end. The necessity to separate blurred contours. Whose. Your outline. From mine. Those clear cut colourations. Harmony is not one’s goal. We are duplicated inside the womb of a bell. What they mean I think is they wonder who said the farewell first. Whether it was written down in an email or a text or if you were homing dead pigeons as messengers. Or if these messages were sent via giant seagulls who’d led your way to the thousand year old cathedral built of cream coloured Caen limestone. Swooping up and down above your hair. You, the tower. Around it their circulating flights: paper pellets creased with no news of no time.. You once said soul knells should be re-introduced. The urgency of recording last sighs. To leave as a host, then to return as a vagabond again. Some kind of a drifting carrillonneur. To stand upright, like a pendulum. Calling up, then calling down. Who will you be when you have returned, when my feet reach the ground. Will I be lost inside a heavy bronze bell, tongueless, numb? What I mean is who will return when you have returned to the table. What I mean is who will be the last one to remember anything at all. And after all, who will take care of you when you are dying. There are guests who prefer dining always only once. Little would they know that they sat at magic tables, that they could have asked for the most daring combination of Morse codes on command. What an extravaganza. They’d say. It’s always already too late. Late. One can’t step inside the same bell twice. One can’t pull two cords at the same time.  Pour yourself another see-through Pinot Noir; make some proper sense and stutter senseless signs. Pick a tightly clustered dark purple pine cone-shaped bunch of grapes for the journey. Hold one under your tongue. For the taxi ride in the middle of tarmac midnight. Those glasses are tarred at the bottom, they say in the end. Why won’t black cabs stop in this street? Is this the way to Rome, the tunnel down to the South? Is this the labyrinthine route back to the pale yellow city? Have you shipped your red suitcase across the ocean to unknown peninsulas? Swimming across underground continents. Within the realm of hundred tons of metal. When you go make sure you don’t leave that gigantic metal body in the middle of the room. On your back, how else? But you think the earth is shrinking nonetheless and one day in the end all distinct silhouettes, outlines of hieroglyphs, days, seasons, topographies, shadows, contours of iron bells, their chords, colourations and continents, in fact all cacophonies will merge into one singular harmony. Look in the bottom of the bottle, into the ceiling of the iron bell, what one owns has already become very blurred. Blurred is good. Or what I mean is you always confuse the typography of those two verbs and end up being lost or in debt. You are meant to stay and write an alternative map of this city. It will be an impromptu composition. Who says, the tenor owls. Trembling church towers of Crookes. On the rims of Nether Edge bells. Come and dine in this unknown nook, the owls shudder, in our large brown byzantine presence. Have salmon and try the white wine instead, underground. In the dark everything is painted naught. And there is a pitch black backyard where you can have a puff. Have you heard of the ghost trains over the Wicker arches? And then you can vanish too with an intermittent chuff into the valley of no-man’s land. With no outlines of locomotives nor silhouettes of cast iron bells. The structure, the discipline, the constancy. Who have you been talking to all this time. Planets don’t overlap. These bodies are heavy and immobile. Try something else; the five gloves of garlic, the cacophony, the noon bells. Did you know that buying an anonymous object from the charity shop is equivalent to re-opening the gates of a long-forgotten zoo boarded up a long time ago? How about adopting a bizarre creature from the shelter, one with three or four legs, or one which stretches the fourth one backwards to look like a tail, one which could sing and guard the threshold. One as large as a wolf. Some kind of a lycanthrope, with both eyebrows meeting at the bridge of their nose, curved fingernails, low ears and swinging stride, one which can strip off its old skin when the winter comes and hanging it on old trees disappear when your face flames up like a torch. But there is no threshold in this city, only invisible rivers. There is a difference between howling and music, did you know? Between dripping and sobbing, treble and tenor. Music is what makes one sob. Howling is just annoying. They howl at the full Moon or the Midsummer Sun as a response to late night sirens. Another house’s on fire. Ring baptism of bells. Whose table will we have dined at in the very end. For whom are you ordering a cab. One without a siren, one which drives from the middle of the thousand and one tarred nights. Out of the starry nowhere. Of pitch black ginnels. A cab without making any irritating noise. Call for a vacuum of absolute silence? just after past midnight with a driver whose lips are sewn together so he cannot say a word, is that what you want. To leave the table with the vocabulary of nothing in your mind.

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