Flipping through my back issues of Poetry magazine is always hit and miss for me. Sometimes, I'll find something suprisingly good. Most of the time, I roll my eyes at how hard the poets and the magazine try and fail to capture my attention. But this morning when I was flipping through the March 2008 issue, I found a poem I'd forgotten I loved. I'd even penned a giant asterisk in the corner of the page to mark it. And yet, two years later, I failed to remember it. So I reread it and enjoyed it all over again. So, here is that poem, by a Hungarian poet whose work I will now be looking up. I think it is quiet and simple and very lovely.
Van Gogh's Prayer, by János Pilinszky
Translated by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri
A battle lost in the cornfields
and in the sky a victory.
Birds, the sun and birds again.
By night, what will be left of me?
By night, only a row of lamps,
a wall of yellow clay that shines,
and down the garden, through the trees,
like candles in a row, the panes;
there I dwelt once and dwell no longer --
I can't live where I once lived, though
the roof there used to cover me.
Lord, you covered me long ago.