Andrew Singer







a migrant worker’s mild march



Here at close of day the tide’s undertow

of a day’s thoughts and conversations glow

foaming to long, white-limned consciousness –

little closures, triumphs and advances

lap soothing at the twin avalanches

of self, clearing the shore’s sandy mess.


Ready now to put away excuses,

nor cast off the insane mirror twin

who cringes when they tread on innocents

and has not reached desire’s farther shore


– has not reached because cannot swim

and this “I” has not carried him

across (an excuse both true and poor).


I’d had a sense the world matured, but no,

walking in the public garden I know

that the lot of behaviours from the playground

have simply been taken underground.


I do not wish to go through there

with neo-Arpads foisting tricks

designed to repulse Bolsheviks

twenty years after the Cold War.


Measure your reality against mine

and gauge how far we’ve progressed:

some 30+ wars bleed adamantine

across the planet now, taxing the blessed.


There’s a fascination with the ilk of porn;

ferrules mingle in capricious glow unborn,

showing carpenter-wisdom, held in place,

restoring a first held-over meeting

and physically sleeving greeting

in a state like incantatory grace.


Yet here I am very near the border,

the first stop into Austria by train

and many Hungarians are here too

(it was theirs until 1922) –


this week is my Next Defining Moment

though coming next on a continuum

(rather than a splashing grand event

as last summer was, visiting my mum)


and so this border – porous, fickle, kind –

opens and reanimates my mind,

having been prepared by earlier,

deeper jaunts into Austrian terrain –

and by reading Seamus Heaney on Auden

and of course by reading Auden (out loud) –

now there’s a fine new furrow to be plowed

reforming the line for conversation.


Here I’m not freed as-if hypnotically

from traumatic Hungarian concerns

as I have been when working less “locally”

in Austria with other teacher friends –

their native Englishness to couch me down –

and having been in “purer” inland towns.


A storm is brewing over London

the likes of which we have never seen.

Clouds are gathering on Tokyo

(the resonant base of harm we know)

and clandestine harbingers

from a chance bar meeting lingers

leaving soldier blades to realign

some pax illyriana with a finger sign.


And yet here I’ve been with friends

and yet like us will always be:

We gather in appointed inns,

on mountainsides, dancehalls, or by the sea

working out fat and differences,

swapping recipes and yanking pains,

helping to heal Bob, who has saved us

yet once more from our own bad rubber jeans.


We trust that it matters, and it matters,

and how it matters is crazy to say

as a dialectic rain is spurting patters

each on our separate roof along our balding day.


Chris’s strategy is to court death –

he’s shaved his head to meet the rain halfway.

Franc would rather mutter small random epithet

– it’s cheaper and he doesn’t need to pray.


Oh and there’s reality out there:

some kids we seem to teach every day,

staggered, jagged peaks in crisp cool air

and a next fridgeful of petit dejuner.


Is this where I last left off,

when I was last free and alone

i.e. in a state of wholer grace

before the killers locked me down? –


they who express cleverness as moral

to those whom they have wronged

as if considering to reconcile,

in fact just feigning till the talk moves on.


This need (and technique) of integrating

my Hungarian and my other mind

was prefigured (I won’t say it was planned)

by an exercise in live-translating

I gave an advanced class in Budapest:


We’d been working entirely in English

(which for some is a form of stealth,

perfectly false, in which to hide their quest)

when a few weeks ago I photocopied

(remember paper?) a short technical

IT-industry magazine article

for them to translate sentences in class.

What a horrible skein, a cross-neural mess

was cast upon the air in this exercise!


My goal here’s not to blame or criticise

for on that lower shelf of reality

there is no blame, just a biology

of state – electromagnetism

in harmony or not like an off-rhyme.


But the long, years-long reorganization

(not just reconstructing) of my psyche

(endured gratefully following oppression)

has shaken me to a new realization

of the how-to-cure, not only of the why.


Comfortable now on firm white bedding

(an electric church bell chimes half-hours)

and buoyed by a Bahá’í month of fasting

(it helps to hone and concentrate the powers)


I complete this circuit as I elide

the two realities I crave inside,

engaging and seeing, in life all around me,

in border towns throughout this once rent

and deeply scarred, now healing continent,

Europeans meeting each others’ destiny halfway.


Another ritual entry into Spring’s underway.

Long past carnival, Lent ending, past St. Patrick’s Day,

after ides of march and Hungary’s divisive melée,

the Bahá’í fast soon finished at the vernal equinox

and speeding along once more in Euroliner short hops


I write to the mild rattle of the cars’ coupling

and the vacuum-rise and chuffle of things passing.


I’ve a panoramic window on a cobalt sky,

crumble-darkening hills and vast low shopping parks,

shot past complex business cubes

and the countryside’s matte darks. . . . .


Here in the depths of a song we made our peace.

At last the space around me again is me.

I have adopted in positive guise

the conditioning of new Hungary.


This is the application

of my Austrian journey’s kippled balm,

a long local bridge’s instantiation

made possible in present perfect form.

Now it will couch me and no longer harm.


Briefly she thinks of me now as one of you

and London somehow is made safer thereby


as Spring (the music says) has helped Jesus

break up through the mafia life of ice –


breathe air in peace, walk fields, and feel calm.












Andrew Singer is a Faculty Lecturer in the English, Comparative Literature, and Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures Departments at The Pennsylvania State University, where he teaches courses in European and world literary cultures, literary translation and creative writing.

He directs the Trafika Europe literary project, showcasing new literature in English and English translation from the 47 countries of Council of Europe. This project, affiliated with The Pennsylvania State University, includes an online quarterly literary journal as an ISSN-indexed publication of Penn State University Libraries, as well as a calendar of European literary events, a European literary bookshop, and preparing to launch Trafika Europe Radio, Europe’s literary radio station.


Andrew Singer has an MA in English / Creative Writing from Boston University, where he mentored with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott.


He has taught survey and graduate-level seminars in the history of Anglo-American poetry at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, and an advanced three-semester Literary Translation Workshop for Master’s degree candidates at Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Piliscsaba, Hungary, as well as assisting British Council with its two-year university poetry translation workshop series in Budapest. Among hundreds of international cultural events, he organized and hosted the principal day-long centenary event for W. H. Auden, in and around the poet’s main residence in Kirchstetten, Austria.


Andrew Singer has also worked as a poet and fiction writer, literary translator and critic, cultural journalist, radio and television host.


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