Chairs above the Danube

a poem by Várady Szabolcs

The two chairs were not unhandsome
in their way. Shame about the springs
protruding and the filthy covers.
But chairs are chairs are chairs,
and these would do.
And so we carried them, mostly on our heads,
from Orlay Street, across what once was known
as Franz Joseph, now Liberty Bridge, right down
to Ráday Street 2, where P then lived
(as his poems of the time will testify).

A chair, or even two, can prove quite useful
in all kinds of ways. Two poets on the bridge
bearing chairs on their heads – one could imagine
a picture with that title. I’d like it to be
a realistic picture not one of those
visionary things. The two chairs,
it should be clearly understood, are not to be construed
as haloes round our heads. About the middle of the bridge –
without wanting to make a point of it –
we sat down on them. The springs of one chair
stuck out particularly. I can’t remember
which of us had it. No matter, what happened later
can’t be explained by that. It was a pleasant
summer evening. We lit a cigarette,
enjoying the comfort of our circumstances,
which were a little unusual.

The chairs survived
for a while doing respectable service: they were
the chairs at P’s place. But naturally one wants
to improve one’s lot: so they gave the chairs
to an upholsterer. Then they changed addresses,
the first time because they had to, the next
because they hated the flat. We tend
to meet less often nowadays. Much has happened since.
G left A (P’s wife) and M (the wife of B)
broke up with me, then the second M
(G’s wife) abandoned G and came to live
at my place (the Bs too separated
in the meantime), P tried suicide
and spends most of the time in institutions,
not to speak of changes in world politics,
in any case we’ve nowhere to sit down.

traducere de George Szirtes

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