Riding the Danube
We could ride over the Danube
or sit on the step watching melon-rind drift down the tide
in a summer that is intolerable
while the city is half-asleep or sheltering
near the railway track a long way from the city
which is a long way to whatever music is sung in its tunnels
by the dead who must live there
but rarely appear on the platform
we enter through the doors of the Metro
where the nearest waterfall is an escalator descending
the other rising in the throat
into the light of midday
where a hot-air balloon is a heart
to a cavity to exhaustion to coffee
to the rococo pastry of the lungs.
Here come the pigeons,
comical yet menacing,
strutting in sunlight
across public squares
and small suburban gardens.
How like generals
engaged in their great office!
This, they declare, is
their day in the sun.
George Szirtes’s first book of poems, The Slant Door (1979 ) was joint-winner of the Faber Prize. He has published many since then,with his collection, Reel, winning the T S Eliot Prize in 2004, a prize for which he has since been shortlisted twice. His latest is Mapping the Delta (Bloodaxe 2016). His memoir of his mother, The Photographer at Sixteen, was published by MacLehose in February 2019 and won the East Anglian Book Prize for Memoir and Biography and was shortlisted for two other prizes. His many translations from Hungarian include László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango. Krasznahorkai won the Man Booker International in 2015 for which Szirtes shared the translator’s prize with Ottilie Mulzet. Married to artist Clarissa Upchurch, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the English Association. He retired from the UEA in 2013.