“To My Hometown”
By Gyula Biro, translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar
You were right about everything you said then and there on that Sunday. Sitting in the park, facing the post office, in the heart of the city. So many times I’ve tried to struggle through the clouds and reach the garden where every flower, bush and sapling manage to get around reality…
It’s early evening, breathing together with the already somnolent city is slow and melancholy. I love this city with its rudeness, petty malice, with its dark streets hungry for light, its ageless ability to forget the world, its immobility. There was a time early on when I felt compelled to paint by an urge to create movement, a change of mood in people, to extricate “that sleeping pearl”, “to rake up the glowing embers”, that sincere wonder we associate with children and so readily forget. Even though it never dies out.
I’m sitting in front of canvas, I feel colors burning inside, they’re in my lines, they’re at home inside me. I value the love of colors above all, because colors are quick-acting and they flood my whole being with their feelings. It’s like being in a garden before a storm, looking at the clouds we too become a damp, brooding shade of purple… it’s the kind of tingle we can see, feel, touch, taste… In one single color or more… I could so easily speak only in colors… But perhaps not… Sadness often colors my thoughts green, and love takes to its bed… Right now I am just sitting by the open window of the atelier. Not too long ago I was traveling, and from the window of the train I saw you as a dark poplar, and now you appear as if in the little glass vial you gave me as a present… I picture you in it… After all, you are in it. With every moment we spent together.
I am a painter who hasn’t touched a brush for ages, but cannot get the intoxication of turpentine out of his head. You asked for a vacation, and I let you have it… Slowly I can’t even write.
Two and a half years together, and two week’s vacation denying ourselves each other. The first night without you, and I start writing. You know why? Because this is not my evening alone, it belongs to both of us. It belongs to our far-reaching campfire that has no regard for mountains, rivers, borders, it can penetrate the hardest winter, the most painful injustices, it can triumph over blows; and it makes its way only to you, only to you and no one else. At any cost… It loves you.
A park in the middle of the city. I watch it often in the evening as it takes a bath in light and talks about love with its marble limbs, waves, feminine throbbing, forms, islets. I often see the two us in it, and our love trudging toward passing eternity. How many stations have we passed? You know. The snake bites its tail… The stroll bumps into its beginning…
“The First Meeting –Island”
Incredible how much time has passed, and yet it’s still with me. I nudge myself: speak to her! The bar is jam-packed with voices and lights, an unpleasant stomach nerve and stomach-warming happiness struggle against each other. You were with someone else, and I knew your place was with me.
The same thoughts and feelings seem to be at play in both of us, I can hear your every word even though you’re silent. We look at each other, and long unexpressed feelings pile up into words: I want you… It’s a wonderful feeling. Actually, I have never been aroused by such a woman before, and I don’t want it from anyone else. Result?
I speak to you, I force awkward tatters of words out of my throat. I rush home. I’m at work on a portrait, I have not added the breasts, and yet, they’re already there. Chance. I want to turn our lives upside down. All I want is your island, our secret. I want to call you love, and I want to hear it from your lips. Whispered and shouted… And then came the walks, my late night doubts, how could it be you? Yet you were radiating, I couldn’t believe hearing so much kindness and love. You’re gorgeous. I had no idea I could fall for a woman so thoroughly. Even now… I’d love to pull you closer. Hug you. Experience it through and through, to love a hundred percent openly… What is there to fear?.. disappointment… getting lost in the other?… Fear of being discombobulated by the other and dominated by mindless desire and never being able to be ourselves…? We fear all these… or all these and nothing?
We warmed up slowly, but now I feel our passion is so close and so gigantic that it makes me shudder… Can love be like this?… or else this is something even more desirable?
I was clinging to your long winter coat, wanting you with me all the time. I was selfish. I didn’t regret it…
“The First Kiss-Island”
The dampness of the cold winter kept everyone off the streets. We two alone roamed the roads and strolled though every moment. Clinging to each other we synchronized our steps, and the coble stones turned into a ballroom. You made me happy, you changed everything.
I truly believed you, believed everything you said. You fed my illusions, and slowly you redrew my character. Like a drawing, a painting is the sweat of our spirit-character hidden in it. At the “S”-shaped tree of the park I kissed you, not knowing it would set me adrift.
I cannot really abstract my life, there were many stations, lots of women, throbbing groins, curse-filled eyes, lots of things to overcome, but I have not yet learned what is right and how to choose it. Remember, the soul is not a cheap toy; every time it breaks and gets re-glued some tiny slivers are lost. Without wholeness we cannot exist.
I don’t know when in these twenty-five years I made the right decision…
But I remember all the wrong ones…
I’ve learned to love and adjust. To fight and make peace.
And walking in the park, at the “S”-shaped tree I think of you, the way we turned toward each other and devoured what the other said or didn’t… What beautiful evenings! And how many more were yet to follow! But among all the happy moments the most tranquil ones were those spent roaming in February, strolling freely and without a care through Ujfalu, imagining that in the next moment an entirely different era or mood might commence. These were the moments of our becoming one in soul, I think. I keep recalling them, evoking them, but the daily grind and being mired in reality without my soul have ruined everything. The hugs, the kisses seem to be sinking into oblivion, all I have left are dreams that break into my nights with unsettled harmonies.
I am adrift… now without you…
“The First Night – Island”
The First evening and night. Embracing me tightly-tenderly you practically slip me caressingly inside you, while you enthrall me, and I enthrall you slowly… sincerely… with casual movements…
I’m expecting and imagining it… It’s still light out… about to turn dark. Entwined around each other we lie, eyes open; we’re silent while we gingerly stroke each other, we’re staring at and loving each other while the stars catch on fire.
“My sweet saint,” soft fairies may say this somewhere while spreading their hands in question. It’s happened again; a woman and a man have found each other. Even though they know what is tied together and what breaks apart forever…
Everything that’s whole will shatter one day.
“Holidays – Island”
Taking a break. I can afford it. I rest my head on my desk – a hard surface, it hurts – and from yet unplowed thoughts I conjure up sentences on my sheet of paper. I want you to be free of unhappiness. And of all thoughts of it. Anything outside the two of us. Let’s not give birth to misunderstandings. They’re born of themselves.
To me there are two kinds of women: one that lacks a soul, displays everything to make her noble side believable, and the other, infected by deep feelings, does everything to hide the source of her dependence. Their bodies are the same, except they have different roles to play.
The trees of the park have grown into pillars, the light filtering through the foliage surrounds me like the magic of Gothic cathedrals. Every happy moment flashing through my mind can strangle me. The feeling of being free every minute is a fragrance in the air, my whole body can taste its freshness, its strength; maybe something belongs to me, and I am I after all.
Turning into mist, one of my dreams flies off. The cupola of the cathedral does not stop it. And I’m sitting, squatting under a skunk cabbage with a sigh: Farewell…
I cannot follow my thoughts… My room is full of books, and I’m daydreaming with eyes wide open… Lately I’ve been devouring books. Cultural joys, palliative pills. Good to be home, and I feel fine.
Sometimes I think about my feelings with trepidation. Perhaps my views and sensations are too dramatic; too sudden and finite. That’s what I need. All that passion. And the suffering, too, I confess, but only because afterwards happiness sprinkles its petals. So many times we were ready to break up. And yet we didn’t. And yet we do.
As a child, I always confronted holidays with boredom. Later, after some soul-searching, I could explain it by my inability to really carve them into holidays. So I started making up my own holidays, at any time, any place, on any occasion, holidays that stood out in the grayness of weekdays. And among other people…
I want to live in a world where anything is possible and we can slip into any role we can enjoy and play. We can carve whatever we want from anything, limited only by unlimited imagination.
Some nights were consecrated into holidays.
“Faithful Forever – Island”
Pay attention to both of us, immerse yourself in me.
My life is like a large bookcase. It looms with six shelves over the limited space of my room. The lower four are filled with books to capacity:some are good and some less so, sentimental and passionate, defiant and meek, once-read or dogeared with use. These were my love at one time, if nothing else, I needed to read them at least once. The fifth and sixth shelves each hold only one book. I often read the one on the fifth. Over and over again… I like that book. The sixth shelf is much to high. I once flipped through the book on it, but have not been able to reach it for some time. No matter how many times I wanted to pick it up, I never manage it. And yet it’s my most precious possession, it tells all about love…
Which is more valuable, sensuous or spiritual love? I put them both on the same shelf… sensuous love is the flame that flares up and burns out, while spiritual love is a slow, long-lasting fire that lights up the colors inside me.
I have found both in you… And lost both…