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ILLY É S, Gyula

One Sentence About Tyranny

‘Where there is tyranny,

there is tyranny,

not just in the barrel of the gun,

not just in prisons,

not only in the interrogation rooms,

not just in the guard’s word

shouted at night,

there is tyranny

not only in the smoke-dark

streaming charge of the prosecutor,

in the admission,

in the prisoners’ wall tapped Morse signals,

not just in the judge’s chilling

verdict: guilty!-

there is tyranny,

not only in the marshal’s bark:


‘fire!’, in the drumming,

and in the manner of  pulling the corpse

into the pit,

not just

in the secret news

anxiously whispered

through a half opened door,

in the ‘sh’of the finger sealing the mouth:

‘don’t move!’

where there is tyranny,

there is tyranny

not just in the iron hard

facial feature

and in that iron, in the already wordless

struggling scream,

in the silence

boosting dumb

shower of tears;

in the bulging eye,

there is  tyranny,

not only in the ‘on-your-feet’

blared ‘long live-s’,

‘hurrays’, songs;

where there is tyranny ,

there is tyranny,

not just in the unremitting

clapping hands,

in the opera, in the trumpeting,

in the just as hypocritically cheering stone monuments,

in colours, in galleries, separately in every frame,

already in the painter’s brush;

not only in the noise of the softly gliding

car in the night,

and in that:

it pulled up at the gate,

it is there as you say ‘hello’

and you sense

through the silence of the receiver,

that a stranger is eavesdropping;

not only the wriggling

strangling of the phone wire of the Laocoon mode*:

train, aeroplane, track,

distaff, rope,

for tyranny

is presently there,

in every single thing,

as not even your old god could have been able to;

there is tyranny in the kindergartens,

in father’s advice,

in mother’s smile,

in how the child replies to a stranger;

not only in the barbed wire,

not just in the slogans in book lines   

which are even more stultifying

than the barbed wire;

it is there

in the parting kisses,

in the way the wife asks:

when will you be back dear?

in the street,

in the routinely repeated how-are you-s,

in the handshake

that suddenly loosens,

and as instantly

your lover’s face freezes,

because tyranny is there

at your date,

not only in the interrogation,

it is there in the confession,

in the sweet word’s ecstasy,

like a fly in the wine,

because even in your dreams

you are not left alone,

it is in your bridal bed,

before that, in the desire,

for you will deem beautiful

only that which it already possessed once;

it was tyranny you lay with,

when you thought you loved,

on the plate and in the glass,

it is there in the nose, the mouth,

in cold and in twilight,

outside and in your room,

as if through the open window,

the putrid stench flooded in,

as if somewhere in the house

there was a gas leak,

if you talk to yourself,

it is tyranny that questions you;

even in your imagination

you are not independent,

even the Milky Way above is different:

it is a border zone, scoured by beams,

a minefield, the star:

it is a spying window,

the teeming sky canopy:

it is just one labour camp;

for tyranny speaks from fever, from the tolling bell,

out of the priest’s confessionals,

from the sermon,

the church, the parliament, the torture rack:

all are but its stages;

whether you open or close your eyes,

tyranny is looking at you;

as disease,

it accompanies you, like a souvenir;

you hear it in the rattle of the train wheel:

‘prisoner, you are a prisoner’,

on the mountain and beside the sea

it is this that you inhale;

in the zigzags of the lightening,

it is in every unexpected

noise, light,

in the startled heart;

in rest,

in shackled boredom,

in pouring rain,

in sky high bars,

in the cell-wall-white

entrapping snowfall;

it looks at you

through the eyes of your dog,

and because it is there in every goal,

it is there in your tomorrow,

in your thought,

in your every movement;

as water cleaves its bed,

you follow and create it;

peek out from this circle?

it is tyranny that looks back at you from the mirror,

it is tyranny that watches; to try to run away would be in vain,

you are at once a captive and the captor;

it impregnates your tobacco’s aroma,

your clothes’ fabric;

it penetrates you

to the marrow;

you would like to think,

but only its thoughts come to your mind,

you would like to look, but you can only see

what it conjured up for you

and already forest fire surrounds you,

fanned into flame by the matchstick

that you threw down

without stamping it out;

and it also guards you,

in the factory, in the field, at home

and you no longer feel, what it is like to live,

what is meat and bread,

what it is to love, to wish,

to open your arms wide,

this is how the slave

himself forges his fetters and wears them;

if you eat it is tyranny you nourish,

you beget your child for it,

where there is tyranny,

everyone is a link in the chain;

its stench emanates and spreads from you,

you too are tyranny;

for it is already because of you

that your child stiffens into spitefulness,

and your wife, swaying in your lap,

turns into a whore;

like a mole in the sunshine,

we walk in blind darkness

and we fidget in our room

that is like the Sahara;

for where there is tyranny,

all is in vain,

this ode too,

any work,

no matter how true,

because from the first,

tyranny stands there at your grave,

it decides who you were

and even your ashes serve it.


Translated from Hungarian by Andris Heks