Verse of Darkness

a poem about coffee and mortality

a poem by Jenő Dsida, translated by Joe Váradi

Verse of Darkness

Oh, season of all-night vigils!
Ink runs thick and harsh, as dusky grime.
The rust-soiled evening drizzles,
spills over gardens by supper time:
Rancid old trees oozing decay,
how many years remain, you wonder.
Your two feet start and stop, afraid
to an early grave they’ll meander.

…Tell me, have you ever immersed
snowy sugar in brown fluid, slow,
into the bitter, dank darkness
of a swirling cup of espresso?
And did you watch the thick fluid
as it slyly-lazily passes
seeping, slithering on up through
the sugarcube’s crevasses?
This is how the nighttime’s ascent
diffuses, also, up into you,
the day’s end, a grave’s dreary scent
coursing through every vein and sinew,
until at last, on a soggy eve
it melts your core down to the brink,
to be the bitter sweetener of
some god’s dim, absinthian drink

The original, by Jenő Dsida (1907–1938), a Hungarian poet and translator who lived a tragically short life overshadowed by World War I. He was active on the Transylvanian cultural scene. The composition has an 8–9 alternating syllable structure, changing to 9-8 in the final two couplets, which I preserved in the translation.

A sötétség verse

Ó, virrasztások évszaka!
Vastagon fog a tinta, zordul.
A rozsdalevü éjszaka
már hatkor a kertekre csordul:
Reves fák nyirka folydogál
s te arra gondolsz: mennyi éved
van hátra még? Jaj meg-megáll
a láb, mert fél, hogy sírba téved.

…Mondd, kissé mártottál-e már
hófehér cukrot barna lébe,
egy feketekávés pohár
keserű, nyirkos éjjelébe?
S figyelted-e: a sűrü lé
mily biztosan, mily sunyi-resten
szivárog, kúszik fölfelé
a kristálytiszta kockatestben?
Így szivódik az éjszaka
beléd is, fölfelé eredve,
az éjszaka, a sír szaga
minden rostodba és eredbe,
mígnem egy lucskos, barna esten
az olvadásig itat át,
hogy édesítsd valamely isten
sötét keserű italát

Written by

Editor of No Crime in Rhymin' and Language Lab | the Woke Bloke ..."come for the sarcasm, stay for my soft side"

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