“Aurora Borealis” by György Faludy

György Faludy


Kodiak, Alaska, March 1944

Between clouds I looked up at the sky and down on the ground:
snow clouds, snow cover, the same above as below.
The freeze was sitting everywhere, busy at work:
its huge green needle had the whole Bering Sea to sew.

After landing we hunted Japanese soldiers for seven days.
I shared my army ration with seals at the watering hole.
I didn’t question the wisdom of it. I only saw Eskimos
and a painted top hat on the top of a totem pole.

In the hammock of fog, I was bundled up in fur coats
that swallowed up the body like the snow a heavy gun:
that’s how I lived from day to day. I hadn’t even thought
of you till yesterday evening when the patrol was done.

The light! The light! I heard the cook from the kitchen,
and when I stepped outside, there it was above the ice:
like a fluffy muslin curtain it billowed, swayed, and swung,
swimming closer and away, reminding me of something nice,

but what? I stood there pondering. Ruffled shadows were
rocking the light. With my hand on the doorknob behind,
I stared entranced. A hard voice from inside woke me up:
The door! Suddenly you spread your skirt over my mind.

—tr. from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007


Paul Sohar: “My first love was poetry, but then I wasted a good part of my life trying unsuccessfully to ram the gates of publishing houses with my novels. I returned to poetry and publishing when I was asked to translate an anthology of contemporary Transylvanian-Hungarian poets. Translation turned out to be more than writing poetry vicariously but the transmigration of the soul while still being alive; it remains an immensely enjoyable experience and great nourishment for my own poetry. While others were dropping dead around him, György Faludy, survived the Hungarian gulag’s Stalinist forced labor camp in the 1950s by constantly composing poems in his head. His stint in the U.S. Army during WWII was not nearly as strenuous, and he had access to paper and pen, but then, too, poetry obviously helped him keep his mental balance. This is just one of the numorous poems he wrote while in the service.”

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