Guest poem submitted by Dave Fortin:
(Poem #1325) Forced March
You're crazy. You fall down, stand up and walk again, your ankles and your knees move but you start again as if you had wings. The ditch calls you, but it's no use you're afraid to stay, and if someone asks why, maybe you turn around and say that a woman and a sane death a better death wait for you. But you're crazy. For a long time only the burned wind spins above the houses at home, Walls lie on their backs, plum trees are broken and the angry night is thick with fear. Oh if I could believe that everything valuble is not only inside me now that there's still home to go back to. If only there were! And just as before bees drone peacefully on the cool veranda, plum preserves turn cold and over sleepy gardens quietly, the end of summer bathes in the sun. Among the leaves the fruit swing naked and in front of the rust-brown hedge blond Fanny waits for me, the morning writes slow shadows--- All this could happen The moon is so round today! Don't walk past me, friend. Yell, and I'll stand up again!
This poem appeared in today's Washington Post Book World. Miklos Radnoti was born in Budapest in 1909, and orphaned at the age of 12. He published a number of collections of poems before the war and was a fierce anti-fascist. In the 1940's he was interned in various work camps, the last time being in Bor, Yugoslavia at a copper mine, to which he was driven in a forced march with other internees. Along the way, he and 22 other prisoners were murdered near the town of Abda sometime between November 6 and 10, 1944 and tossed into a mass grave. After the war, his body was exhumed and his last poems were found in his field jacket, written in pencil in a small Serbian exercise book. The above poem is part of this collection, published in 1946 as "Sky With Clouds". It is dated September 5, 1944. There are a number of poems around, written by Holocaust survivors or others who faced the atrocities of modern warfare. This one strikes me having that ring of truth -- of memeory unvarnished by the passage of time. I am particularly moved by how the poet conveys the way a person's mind wanders to happier times and almost loses touch with the horrors of the present in the second half of the poem, and then is yanked back into the on-going atrocity by the fear of falling behind. Dave Fortin.