Reading For Rush Hour
by Thomas Ország Land (June 2012)
Rational thinkers, what can you make
out of a nightmare seen fully awake?
Nightmare, funeral, watch it if you dare –
crawling at the crossroads everywhere:
slow hearse upon hearse driven nose-to-tail
by exhaling corpses, drawn and frail
and through each damp windscreen, the light will betray
your very own features decayed with the day.
O, the faces, the faces I know. I am greeting
reliable Richard approaching; he cannot see me
on his way to his well valued vault with central heating,
airtight, sound in predictable monogamy.
He welcomed me there as a boy.
His clever spectacles blind, his moustache still growing,
he sells life insurance policies to the dead.
His tranquillised, loyal wife (I cannot help knowing)
dreamed of me in her spotless, guilty bed –
to his lukewarm, conjugal joy.
Yet he had been alive to passion and anger
and raged at foul indifference till, stage by stage,
he gave himself up to monotony's languor
for death alone could save him from middle age.
Richard worked. Outside, the living seasons faded.
Like so many, he grew valued in his trade
and his fierce opinions slowly lost their meaning.
Yet his feelings still can flare (as I have seen)
when he shelters refugees.
Dear Richard, rest in peace.
Here comes Orgie Porgie, absorbed contriving
manly new achievements, carefully driving
his hearse to his home below.
His swollen corpse of a child is slowly blending
into the business suit of his funeral day,
a fumbling toy manufacturer earnestly bending
to adult games – but he has forgotten how to play.
He buried himself in a hungry portfolio;
so well imitating the shades in the money profession,
he managed to die of repression.
But life penetrates the shallow graves like teeming
mould employed to re-manufacture the earth,
and when he's not counting his liquid assets' worth
poor Orgie Porgie goes on dimly dreaming –
He sees himself as a hesitant
visitor in a butchery-plant
where living beasts are stripped of their hides to increase
the marketability of their flesh, thus enriching
profit returns: alive and naked and twitching...
Gentle Orgie Porgie, rest in peace.
That well known figure advancing like infection
is the corpse of Thomas Wonder-Land, Esq.,
a master of gaining the gullible graveyard's affection
for any truth without actually being a liar.
He boasts, for public service he never gave,
a newspaper by-line across his early grave.
He was once a poet
but poetry didn't pay,
so he chose to conform to a lucrative line and to tow it
hereafter: he died insisting he'd had his own say.
His women sought love; he pinned them in style
like leaves on his wreath, a mean lover displaying a lean,
where his sensuous lips had been.
Like a scalpel, he wields cautious views on communal affairs,
a cold writer scorched by private emotions he dares
not admit; but in public he does not scruple to giving
advice inciting the world to catastrophes
for even a rotten writer must make a living.
Wretched, unhappy departed, rest in peace.
Faces, dead faces, O
the faces, the faces I know.
Uniformed Roger drives a policeman's hearse
for he failed to become a musician, duty bound
to safeguard the graveyard's rest from the dubious curse
of troublesome souls who might raise a disturbing sound.
And property agent Alec so good at selling
he can disregard the essential use of a dwelling.
And the aircraft assembler returns without questions to bed
so deep he can't hear the bombers overhead.
And the scientist doesn't mind in his funeral ride
whether he worked on semen or humanicide.
A face that melts. A face that slowly hardens.
Unseeing eyeballs and withering, yellow skin
shaded by windscreens, taking their daily place
devoid of intensity, mischief or love or sin
in an endless procession led by a hearse from space
with a corpse that forgot to cultivate the gardens.
Corpses, let it cease,
corpses, rest in peace...
Rational thinkers, shall we ever
bridge or divorce from passion that drives
people to give up their precious lives
and rest in peace through their own endeavour?
Our sombre vehicles make their way
in endless, divergent lines that betray
the earth; unfeeling they coil with ease
and spread like maggots through a cheese.
I must take my place in my own unblessed
premature funeral, or try to revive
these volunteers seeking the final rest
before they bury the world alive.
THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent. His next major work will be THE SURVIVORS: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time, to be published by Snakeskin/England in 2014.
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