A Book of Breathings


Balaton 1: The Ceramic Pot


To write about a place you need to gather its ashes into a ceramic pot. Or into
some kind of a hollow, concave vessel. Then you want to tilt it, when it’s full to
the brim. Or to drop it, as if it had accidentally slipped out of your hand. All at
once. So, for example, to love the lake you are thinking of, to love the city you
want to imagine, first you must let the city drown and let the lake submerge too
whirling silt of memories, one layer after another. Sediments of a sun-lit hillside
braided with vine-yards, an abbey, perched on the summit of the hill, and a
round-mouthed snail carrying a conical shell on its back, a vital ornament of the
fauna, look, just when it’s inching up, you could brush it off the slope. In fact,
you want to let the residues of inhabitants drain down the whirlpool, one and all,
on its own merits, a shouting girl and a shepherd tending a thousand golden-
haired goats, a bishop who lives in the abbey guarding an old manuscript, long-
forgotten; in fact, you need to let go of grandmother too… her silhouette, like a
river, meandering among vine branches, like the spiral of a lizard warming its
thin lilac veins on sunlit stones, watching over the horizon... Now, from an aerial
view, all it is: a drop of muddy water flowing down a horn of international maps.
Down your own funnel-shaped palms. Arrivals must not equate to departures any
longer. You cannot go around in circles anymore. To love a place, to love a
segment of geography, a fragment of rock, a mote of a mountain, you must leave
this segment, this fragment, this mote in a codex, locked away in blocks of wood,
you must then entrust this codex to a glass case, the glass case to an unattended
museum, the museum to a necropolis. You must forget how to pronounce. Now
all it is: a cup left on a stranger’s table. An empty see-through glass. Its
emptiness, as small as the universe.

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Ágnes Lehóczky

 

Ágnes Lehóczky’s Budapest to Babel and Rememberer were published by Egg Box. She won the Jane Martin National Poetry Prize in 2011. Her monograph Poetry: the Geometry of Living Substance was published by Cambridge Scholars. She co-edited The Sheffield Anthology: Poems from the City Imagined (Smith/Doorstop, 2012).