Reading For Rush Hour

by Thomas Ország Land (June 2012)


I

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Rational thinkers, what can you make

out of a nightmare seen fully awake?

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Nightmare, funeral, watch it if you dare –

crawling at the crossroads everywhere:

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slow hearse upon hearse driven nose-to-tail

by exhaling corpses, drawn and frail

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and through each damp windscreen, the light will betray

your very own features decayed with the day.

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II

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dear Richard, rest in peace.

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III

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Here comes Orgie Porgie, absorbed contriving

manly new achievements, carefully driving

his hearse to his home below.

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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.

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He buried himself in a hungry portfolio;

so well imitating the shades in the money profession,

he managed to die of repression.

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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 –

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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...

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Gentle Orgie Porgie, rest in peace.

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IV

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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.

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He boasts, for public service he never gave,

a newspaper by-line across his early grave.

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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.

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His women sought love; he pinned them in style

like leaves on his wreath, a mean lover displaying a lean,

sophisticated smile

where his sensuous lips had been.

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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.

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Wretched, unhappy departed, rest in peace.

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V

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Faces, dead faces, O

the faces, the faces I know.

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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.

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And property agent Alec so good at selling

he can disregard the essential use of a dwelling.

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And the aircraft assembler returns without questions to bed

so deep he can't hear the bombers overhead.

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And the scientist doesn't mind in his funeral ride

whether he worked on semen or humanicide.

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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.

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Corpses, let it cease,

corpses, rest in peace...

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VI

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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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