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[Page 356]

Otto Honig: Poems

Translated by

George Liebermann

Gloomy buggy

In the dusk of the gleam dawn
Zooms with us a nice auburn buggy
Coated with shiny gold
Inside and beneath hubbub of heartbeats,
Since there is no end, or border ahead.

It rushes, gallops on the road forward
Never stops on its pale course.
It absorbs and churns
the blood in our hearts,
ignores the heart's imploring cries
And it wouldn't, the heart wouldn't move aside.

A large big bloody-red wave forms its cockpit
Because the blood of the passed heart moves
its wave forever up and down in gallop,
throws off those done consumed
Onto a cursed swaying chair.

That is the faint red chaos.
And who reaches it, chants no more
the blood inciting song of youth.
In the distance can see his grave,
And like a dream his tomb comes closer.

Then the cruel fate pushes
The twisted hearts even farther,
the desiccated bodies: blood drained
lakes; they fall out under the buggy
Onto the road of no return.

I stand in the plains

I stand here; crippled, limp, deafened.
Still admire with twisted, contorted smile
the spoiled mean world.
And my damnations yell dreadful with burden,
Painful and majestic thundering grief into the night.

I stood here forever,
And noticed every minute of the exultant,
Stupid, sluggish extinguished worlds.
Sad awakening from the flash of a dream.
Vicious struggles over bloody treasures,
Every sigh of the bitter minutes.

I stand here not unlike a rude Quasimodo.
And I who saw the noble somber poets
Of the ancient world who cruised the
Grand roads of Vergilius; fire of hells…
Today, I still stand and see the deep
Burning eyes of the glorious future.

I see and hope; maybe I will live to see
The home of the noble enjoyment.
I still stand tall, I, who refuse to be taken
By the murderer's arm
In this vicious, ravaging, repulsing Today.
At the end, I stay pure in the world.


Translator's note:

To familiarize somewhat the readers with Otto Honig, I will have to take them back in time to 1942-1944 and in place to the city of Oradea, more precisely to the Dr. Kecskemethy Lyceum. This school was similar to an American High School, but with a more extensive curriculum, which enabled its graduates to be admitted directly to Medical School, Engineering, etc. There were 60 students in my graduating class, 16 girls and 44 boys.

Otto sat somewhere in the last row, where he could write his poems while teachers lectured about math, history, geography, subjects for which he did not care. We were lucky if he read us one of his poems, published under the pseudonym Otto Emil in the most respected Hungarian Literary Journal, HID (BRIDGE in English).

His friend and mentor was the later celebrated poet Imre Horvath. A film, entitled “The Song of Fools” is being made today in Oradea about Imre Horvath's life. It is my hope that it will include Otto Honig, whose young life came to an end in Auschwitz.

George Liebermann


[Page 362]

In Memory of George Liebermann (1925-2012)

George grew up in Oradea and was a student in Dr. Lipot Kecskemeti Jewish High School, class of 1944 - the last graduating class before the school was closed for good, in March 1944, following the German occupation of Hungary.

He was deported to Auschwitz with his mother, Margit, and 12-year-old brother, Pista. Seven concentration camps later, he was the only survivor of the three. His father, Nandor, who survived forced labor, encouraged him to become a doctor. He received his medical degree from Targu Mures Medical School. In 1964, he immigrated with his family to the USA, where he practiced as a psychiatrist.

 

The Branded Lot

Ady Endre

Translation by Susan Geroe

Christ's saintly shadow and Heine's devilish face
Are dancing before us on the road.
Amid laughter and sunshine, curses are tumbling.
With a big star marked atop the head,
The branded lot is charging ahead.

'Tis the chosen race: away and forward
Lie gallows, mountain peaks old and sad
They march in rags, scattered, and branded,
Lawless, disorganized gloomy souls,
I'm joining your ranks.

Your blood, foreign a hundred times over,
Is still mine, my very own.
Your sweet bloody lipped girls fed it to me
As did your friendly loyal young men,
Open heartedly.

Proud and pitiful lot, you can drop me
A hundred times over, yet
My spirit slips back to yours again.
Eternal wanderers, rebels, fomenters of new,
Branded and starred, I'm coming with you.

This tortured great Life belongs to us.
On the sickbed and under the cross
Hurrah, hurrah onward to the Future.
My unsightly, yellow-stained flock,
I'm running along and give you my blessing.


[Page 364]

Who Can Answer Me?

Written by Arato Andras

Translated by Susan Geroe

Every day a new distinction,
My days are heroic and cowardly.
Yet by night I can't ever figure out:
Why haven't they taken me yet to a mental institution?

My clothes are hanging loose,
As do my arms and spirit.
But alas, a straight jacket is costly.
I regret that as I speculate on the solution:
Why haven't they taken me yet to a mental institution?

This is the truth: doubled over, I stoop.
Padlock's on my mouth, ambergris in my heart.
Doubt stares at me asking its question:
Why haven't they taken me yet to a mental institution?

Canons and dictators lie in wait for me,
Yet all I care about is my feeble rhyme.
Thus, it is understandable if I wonder:
Why haven't they taken me yet to the funny farm?

Like the leash restrains a dog,
I'm bound inside by a grumbling,
digging, raving suspicion:
There is no need for another asylum,
Perhaps Europe is the mental institution?

Oradea, 1937.

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