Miracle in Manhattan



In the whole of New York what I liked best
was the tree: that tree with its dense foliage
spreading its arms up there on the roof,
green and abandoned as the everyday miracle
that is the created world.
Life round about it was choked with concrete,
a jungle of bricks entangled everything,
and by night the tree there called to mind
a lone sentry, intensely watching,
who stands his ground for us. In the street’s depth,
a muddled age keeps droning, teeming by,
while the tree stands fifteen storeys up
and lives, and keeps on living,
above and beyond the racing of machines.
You should live this way too, for the future’s sake,
with all the beauty and courage of that tree,
shaping the light that falls on you into colours,
that the melody of your life might blossom skyward.

(English version by Clive Wilmer and the author)

Hungarian version:

Csoda Manhattanban

Egész New Yorkból legjobban őt szerettem,
azt a fát, azt a sűrűlombú fát,
mely fenn a tetőn nyújtózott önfeledten
és zölden, mint a teremtett világ
alapvető, mindennapos csodája.
Körötte már mindent benőtt a kő,
mindent befont a tégla-rengeteg,
s ő esténként feszülten őrködő
magányos őrszemre emlékeztetett,
ki helytáll értünk. Míg az utca mélyén
egy zavaros kor zsibong, s hömpölyög,
ő tizenöt emelet meredélyén
él, él a gépek versenye fölött.
Igy kell neked is élned a jövőért,
ilyen szépen és merészen, mint e fa,
színné rendezve mind a rádbukó fényt,
hogy égre nyíljon léted dallama.

George Gömöri, Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge, is an award-winning Hungarian poet and translator, who has lived in England since 1956. He has published 63 books, including many volumes of poetry. The most recent of these is an anthology of modern Hungarian verse Steep Path, translated by Clive Wilmer and himself. He is the recipient of numerous literary prizes and awards, among them the Janus Pannonius Prize for Translation (2014). He now lives in London, where he is a Senior Research Associate at the School of Slavonic Studies and University College, London.

Illustration (ink and acrylic) by Franco Blandino.