Németh Zoltán

12/16 Text

Zoltán Németh: The Spanish Tongue. Transl. Austin Wagner

Vast sails snap on the seafaring ship:
this is the Spanish tongue, this snapping, the murmuring of the wind,
the wind snatching at the sail, this is in fact why the Spanish tongue
came into being, to cut sizzling into the sail,
and to drive the ship onward, every ship driven onward by
the Spanish tongue, just as the sailors spoke Spanish,
the caravel doubled in speed, all but shoved forward
by the Spanish tongue, the Spanish tongue drove the ship.
What is the Spanish tongue? The surging sea, the childish laughter
of the wind tumbling over the cresting waves, the swelling sails,
we could say, which set off into the infinite, the wind’s
whispering over the sail, this simple rustling sound,
unstoppable, this is why you cannot quit the Spanish tongue,
when it begins, the Spanish tongue has no end,
the Spanish tongue is perpetuum mobile which casts the ships
beyond even America, the fleet of caravels thrusts into America’s
lands, plows into the Appalachian Plateau, cuts through
the great Sioux steppe, into the Californian mountains, and drives on,
onward, all the way to the Moon, cuts it in two, the fleet of ships
holding its course ever onward with its incredible engine
which is the Spanish tongue, in fact, what’s more, the entire ship
is the Spanish tongue, it had only to find a form for itself,
for the tongue is more helpless than the bridal veil,
more helpless than the maidenhead, reminiscent of the finest moments
of tender flesh, more helpless than the air we cannot see,
well, the Spanish tongue played on this helplessness, it cut across
the Atlantic Ocean, and the next moment had shot out
into the cosmos, split in two, leaving bleeding stars
behind, wailing mothers and abandoned children,
but the Spanish tongue’s sails wipe away the tears, and we see
all the sailors standing there on deck, captain and crew,
they speak and they speak, it flows, almost brims over, the Spanish tongue,
it takes flight from the deck, clutches at the sail,
and the ship doubles in speed, what a wonder that we invented
the Spanish tongue, rejoice the captain, helmsman, and crew,
what a wonder that we have this tongue, they say, and these words
propel the ship onward with renewed strength, yes, it’s a strong tongue this,
and yet still light, sighing, and yet still unstoppable, tireless,
it wipes the tears, it continues onward, immortal.

We launched this project as part of the Bázis website with the support of the Minority Culture Fund. Its aim is to translate contemporary Hungarian poetry in Slovakia into Slovak and English. We want to create a virtual anthology of contemporary Hungarian poetry in Slovakia.