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Zita Izso: a poem

Photograph by Laura Veres


When mother was beating me,

she locked the bathroom door

and started to run water.

It seemed to take so long,

I could see how the whole Danube

might flow through the tap

like futile apologies.

I had to figure out the reason

why she struck me.

If I couldn't, her strikes became wilder:

she stubbed out cigarette butts on my skin;

dashed soda cans against me.

Each can plunged on the floor

like the Columbia with all her crew,

like relatives and friends;

all who I'd hoped would help me.

She loved to say

"You're like a fag".

She pinched my hand

as if a dead animal had set its jaw on me.

Sometimes she woke me in the middle of the night

for a paddywhack.

Once I happened to be locked out of the house

wearing my PJ's.

She told me to be tough.

I got used to pain.

I had more and more wounds,

like toothprints on a chunk of flesh

that was meant for strays.

I felt free only when stepping on the ice.

Ice-skating, I was aware she couldn't touch me.

The others had a feeling something was wrong,

but they could only see the iceberg's top,

piercing their truth like a tapered spear.

Translated by Agnes Marton.

Zita Izso is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Zsigmond Móricz Literary Grant, the Mihály Babits Literary Translator Grant and the NKA Arts Grant. She published her third poetry collection in 2018 under the title Éjszakai földet érés (Nighttime Landing).

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