Deported Women

András Mezei  (1930-2008) was  a major Jewish-Hungarian poet. He survived the Holocaust as a child in the Budapest Ghetto where some 17,000 souls perished around him from hunger, disease and the fancy of uniformed bandits. He became a dominant force in the national reconstruction that followed the collapse of Soviet administration in Eastern Europe a quarter century ago.

Her sagging, loosened, soiled body,
repellent odour and confusions
describe her journey of abuse –
The air is foul. I breathe through the mouth.

I am a slave at the ramp of the brewery,
assigned with my crew to unload this train
of brutalized, semi-conscious women,
survivors of a trek to the Reich

returned at last to the land of their birth,
back home to Hungary in sealed cattle-trucks
past grieving, fear and even awareness –
So slight a person might have been lighter.

I’ve grabbed her legs beneath the knees while
my partner holds her by the armpits.
Her skin is damp with diarrhoea.
Her body slipping from our grip.

Discreetly, even the Arrow-Cross thugs
retreat on the ramp that serves the brewery -
Remember that brewery? Right here, in Kőszeg.

András Mezei

Translated from the Hungarian and Edited by Thomas Land

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Thomas Land would be pleased to hear them.