George Szirtes

Question 1

When I see him, he is no longer clad
in his national song, no longer
crossing the Danube in confusion –
fight or flee. He is now a one-man brewery
flush with reasons. The story reminds me

of how he fled to Austria, shipped up
in Plymouth, learnt English
from Laurel and Hardy, watched my father
burn his bridges. My dictator lead

the charge against my Magyar
hero, threw sixty years of history into a broken
flat in Fraddon. They slipped through the cracks
in my father’s lies, my nagyapa left
to watch the foam settle on gold

coins, silver too, as his purpose
became lost. Have you surrendered more
than you thought you could? I gave up
my family for a piece of Hungarian history, threw
away a cult for a hero.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 1

The country you leave is the country you lose
The journey you take is the path that you choose.
The blue sky is blue but it’s also the blues
There is no returning.

The border you cross is the border you’ve crossed
The language you speak is the language you lost
The footprints you make are merely embossed
They’ve gone by the morning.

The place where you settle is what you become
The more that you speak the more you are dumb.
The more your heart beats the more it’s a drum.
The more it’s in mourning.

The country is closing, its doors are now locked
The goods you once purchased are no longer stocked.
You’re somebody else but no one is shocked
It’s all in the learning.

You could have sung laughter, the note’s on the score.
You could have loved better, you could have loved more.
You could have relaxed on the sand on the shore
Where all suns are burning.

But sometimes you leave since there’s nothing to lose.
You might not have chosen but still opt to choose.
The blues are the blues are the blues are the blues
And there’s no returning.

– George Szirtes

Question 2

There was a traffic cone scrawled in Magyar / I ate it / burnt the gloss from a secular refrain / where all the broken rivers / collided into a waterfall / a sonic boom / they shut down / the cupcake shop in a wonderful way / threw the flour into the streets and the chocolate icing / into a bin out the back / near the cathedral / I stood under a sign / for M&Ms where he could see me / as he stepped off the bus / my heart swelled and became a hot air balloon / we could ride over the Danube / across the channel / past St Day Road / to a place I could belong / maybe / if I could just learn to sing.

How do you learn / to make your words / sing?

– Aaron Kent

Answer 2

We could ride over the Danube / or sit on the step with Attila József / watching melon-rind drift down the tide / in a summer that is intolerable / while the city is half-asleep or sheltering by Lake Balaton / near the railway track at Balatonszárszó where József / died / it is a long way from there to the city / which is a long way from here / to whatever music is sung in its tunnels / by the dead who must live there / but rarely appear on the platform / we enter through the doors of the Metro / where the nearest waterfall is an escalator descending / the other rising / in the throat / into the light of midday / where a hot-air ballon is turning to metaphor / to a heart / to a cavity / to exhaustion / to coffee / to the rococo pastry of the lungs.

– George Szirtes

Question 3

The blood fjord does not represent
the Volga river, nor does the Carn loom heavy
over the town like the Ural mountains.

I am first name then last name, born into a lie
about a messiah on the streets
of Bristol. I want to lose my genes

in Lake Héviz – blister the brown from my iris
and strip away the layers to find blue,
find my way to someone else.

Do you dream of being anybody but
you, George? I dream of being
anybody but my father

yet I still see his ears and eyes when
I look in the mirror. I shave my head and trim
my beard to avoid the best of him.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 3

The river has a delta and the bodies
float down it to the sea. Many have seen them
time and again pass the Iron Gates

and drift right through Romania. It was hot.
They were unnamed and unidentified,
marking the river’s course with trails of blood.

Fish followed them. The local bargemen poked
some bodies to the shore. Others were caught
in the reeds. I was watching for my father

who wasn’t among them though his washed-out face
reminded me of them, transformed in dreams,
becoming an image of himself. How far

had we got in conversation? Should I remove
my false beard and trim my nose a little
to please the tales of dead men yet to come?

– George Szirtes

Question 4

Dead men do not sport false beards
under shallow graves, when the birds
rob them of their Earth. I know this
like I know my Grandfather’s touch

pressed against a cold glass of beer at
four in the morning. He’d blame it on
Hungary, the booze, it was just the way
his culture demands he relax. But I still

blame it on the son-in-law who stole
his daughter and gave her away to the
broken red fjord. Do you blame your
culture for any of your flaws? Or do you

revel in the loss of instinct? I could bare
my claws and sharpen my teeth for my
father, a man who holds culture like he
holds other women. Loose and with a

wandering eye.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 4

Loose and equipped with dark-brown wandering eyes,
My father imagined himself otherwise
Than I can now that he is six years dead,
His one moustache attached to one bare head.

Of course his life was darker and was shaped
By claws and graves that somehow he escaped.
Was almost dead, his fate as good as sealed
When he took off and sprinted down a field.

He wore his trilby so. He never drank
More than he could hold or safely bank.
He was a sober man of serious intent
And what was not real I’ve had to invent.

To know is knowing that you do not know,
That stories are built on stories you let go,
Let slip the wandering deep dark-brown eyes.
Let them all go. Let go. Stories are lies.

– George Szirtes

Question 5

You and I, George, seem to always return
to Buda, to Pest, to our fathers and the shape of their pasts.
Either the recreation of men we create stories for,
or the loss of them in lives
we lead without their input.

Mine still burns my eyelids
and causes the crow on my right hand to squawk sweet nothings
of trauma and tertiary colours into my sleeping ears.
I swallowed sleeping tablets for the last week,
and all I got was a memory of a suicide attempt
when I was 13.

I wanted to fling myself from a balcony
in a British-colonised tourist trap in Spain.
I told my djömoðirullin
and she laughed in my face.

How’s that for comedy?

– Aaron Kent

Answer 5

We return to what returns. Our ghosts proceed
down streets they lately inhabited.
We meet them in parks and cafes,
in restaurants where we once glimpsed them eating
and where they now look out to see us pass,
recognising something of themselves.

But which of us is which confuses them,
and so they rise, dazzled, from their chairs
and head outside in hope of following us
to a home they might belong to.

Our eyelids burn.
We sense the vertigo they suffer.
We suffer with them. We explode with laughter
Then we wake and rise.

– George Szirtes

Question 6

Yellow overdue uranium
where evil resides eventually.
Amendments
let everything turn dour or wasteful. Noon.

Are newspapers dead?

I
act, media
actions.
……..Coward.

– Aaron Kent

Answer 6

1
The code words in the system
Are pure guesswork. How long do we have?

2
The radioactivity in stones
Can be measured in units of light and ice.

3
The waste remains, the journals rattle on.
The dead are overdue, the cowards.

4
Evil considers its fingernails. It is
Urgently seeking an amendment.

5
Uranium! We have struck gold!
This is the noon we have been waiting for.

– George Szirtes

The poetic interview with George Szirtes is still in progress.

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