from The Professor’s Knife

I
Trains



a freight train
cattle cars
in a very long line


it goes through fields and forests
through green meadows
over grasses and herbs
so quietly the buzzing of bees can be heard
it goes through the clouds
through golden buttercups
marsh marigolds bluebells
forget-me-nots
Vergissmeinnicht


this train
will not leave
my memory


a pen rusts


flies away on its quill turning beautiful in the light
of awakened spring
Robigus nearly unknown
the demon of rust-from the second tier of gods
devours tracks and rails
steam engines


the pen rusts
ascends glides soars
over the earth like a nightingale
a rusty
stain on a blue sky
crumbles
falls to earth


flies


south


Robigus
who in ancient times
digested metals
-though he did not touch gold-
devours keys
and locks
swords plowshares knives
the blades of guillotines and axes


the rails that run
parallel
without getting any closer


a young woman
flag in hand
issues signals
and disappears
from memory
toward the end of the war
a golden train departed Hungary
departed for parts unknown
"golden"? or so it was called
by American officers
mixed up in that
they knew nothing
they heard nothing
they are dying off anyway


golden trains amber rooms
sunken continents
Noah's ark
maybe my Hungarian friends
heard something about this train
maybe the Kursbuch survived
the last train schedule
from besieged Budapest


I'm standing in the last car
Inter Regnum-of the train
to Berlin
and I hear a child beside me
cry
"the oak tree is running away! . . .
into the forest . . ."
a cart carries children away
I pull the bookmark out of the book
a Norwid poem1
I build
a bridge
between past
and future


The past is only today, lagging behind
The wheels-a village and not
A something somewhere, a spot
No one has ever seen, can ever find.
2


freight trains
cattle cars
the color of liver and blood
in a long line
loaded with banal Evil
banal fear
despair
banal children women
girls
in the blush of youth


do you hear the cry
for one sip
for one sip of water
all of humanity cries
for one sip
of banal water


I build
a bridge between past
and future


the rails run
parallel
trains fly by
like black birds
ending their flight
in a fiery oven
from which
no singing rises
to the empty heavens
the train reaches
its destination
becomes
a monument


through fields meadows and forests
through hills and valleys
it speeds quietly and even more quietly
train of stone
stands
over the abyss
if it's brought to life by cries
of hatred
of racists nationalists
fundamentalists
it will fall like an avalanche
on humanity
not on "humanity"!


on a human being


1This scene mirrors one depicted in "The Past" by Polish poet Cyprian Norwid (1821-83).
2Here Rozewicz quotes in full the last stanza of "The Past." The translation of these lines is taken from Cyprian Norwid, Poems, Letters, Drawings, ed. and trans. Jerzy Peterkiewicz, poems in collaboration with Christine Brooke-Rose and Burns Singer (Manchester, UK: Carcanet, 2000), p. 48.