– from “Picture Postcards”
I fell beside him; his body turned over,
already taught as a string about to snap.
Shot in the back of the neck. That’s how you too will end,
I whispered to myself; just lie quietly.
Patience now flowers into death.
Der springt noch auf, a voice said above me.
On my ear, blood dried, mixed with filth.
Szentkirályszabadja, 31 October 1944
(Trans. Emery George)
A powerful document about loss. Potential mired in history. Forgotten. Silent. Empty pages.
The fact that these were Radnóti’s last words written in secret, hidden in his pants, shortly before his death, make them all the more alive, real, lasting, obstinate.
The fact, also, that Radnóti’s wife was undeterred by absence, by unknowns, by odds, by bureaucracy, and would not let go until his body was found… The fact that the words he thought so necessary survived two years of burial in a mass grave… His small notebook that was his world opened and the words breathed… And the fact that when I read them I am both transformed and ashamed…
Transformed by seeing myself in a new way, by seeing the world in its own truth… Transformed by knowledge that haunts, that makes a larger moment… And ashamed that I can never outlive my own words – that somehow seem so ridiculous, so futile, so blah-blah-blah… Ashamed that I can never put into words who or what I really am or what I want or what I believe or feel or taste or touch…
Ashamed that I ever picked up a pen and moved it across paper – knowing full well that the blank space is more true… Ashamed that I am a beast, a burden, an extra in my own story, a misplaced comma and never a period… Ashamed that what could have been is not…
But, I read Radnóti, and I want to try – whatever that means – one more time… the moment on repeat play in the universe… I pick up my pen… I scribble my words… I pick up my pen… I scribble… I pick up my pen… my words