Miklós Radnóti, marched from forced labour
in Yugoslavia back into Hungary, came to rest
near a bend in the Radca, at what his translator
describes as “a strange lonely place” where
the tributary joins “the great river,” a marshland
watched over by willows and “high circling birds.”
Condors perhaps—they appear in the notes and
poems he was writing—under a foamy sky.
Huddled in a trench with the body of a friend
who’d been shot in the neck, he wrote with a pencil
stub in his notebook: patience flowers into death.
His wife’s face bloomed in his head.
Thinking of the petals of crushed flowers
floating in a wake of perfume, he wrote to caress her
neck. The fascists’ bullets wiped out his patience.
His written petals survive.
Today, we listen to the news of war
here in a river sanctuary my wife’s unbending
will has created—horizontal slats of cedar, verticals
of glass—a Mondrian chapel of light.
This afternoon just before dark the first
greenshank arrived from the Hebrides.
Ignorant of human borders, its migration
technology is simple: feathers
and fish-fuel, cryptic colour and homing
instinct. This elegant wader landed on a mooring,
got ruffled in the westerly, then took off again,
an acrobatic twister, and levelled down
onto a mudflat—a lone figure that dashed across
the shore, stood on one leg, then, conducting
its song with its bill, came forward
in a high-stepping dance.
Copyright © 2006 Robert Adamson
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.