mégy egyet kérnék szépen (one more please)

by Chloe Elliott

what I want to say is that       
I met a boy called
Bence in a bar on kertész street. in the bar you weren’t
able to see a square inch of unpainted wall and I sat there trying to decipher the different flavours on the menu:

and something that might’ve been quince though I’ve never seen a quince in my life –

what I want to say is that I went to
dohány street the next day to meet carl lutz and raoul wallenberg
and how when they spoke I wish I knew the words for plum tree 
and paprika sausage and tulip bulb. how I wanted to ask how heavy 
a woman must be when you fish her out of the river, and how long she would have to be in there for her fingers to turn pruny – 

though I could not say any of that,
the only thing I knew how to say was göndör haj –

because curly was easier to pronounce than straight so 
I sat underneath the tree whispering curly hair. wishing to know 
the right word so I could place it underneath a stone, so I could hide it 
and save it as if the right word was worth saving – 

when miklós radnóti wrote home the sky must have been yellow.
and the cornfields too, great sundews encroaching the october sun, hitting 
those whorls like freshly ironed collars; maybe he thought of his wife. 
of buttoning up in the morning and sitting in
the károlyi gardens singing incy wincy spider. of drinking bull’s blood
in the evening, of sanguine peckered kisses, of pest singing too, of the street 
in its endless fumbling love affair with the horizon, of there being
one version of cowardice, of it meaning not waiting to two-step
until the streetlights turned off. you see when verses were not epitaphs
and fingernails not green from copper and love letters not washed away by piss in the snow and no men screaming splints lined up column after column
as the harvest reaping sent them curdling in the fields stacks of burlap and brandy for winter to claim until down comes the rain and washes the corporal out –

Bence drives skydiving planes.
he tells me the phrase for one more please
so I can order at the bar and then translates:

I teach him how to pronounce the word psychology
and we read postcards next to the danube until dawn comes up. we read
miklós’ letters to his wife and I ask him if there are enough stones for all
this grief. no, but he teaches me the word for straight hair, egyenes haj, 
and we sit there, practising it until the tide comes in.