“The Mind Freezes – József Attila, Brecht, supper conversation about evil”


Said I would post something today, a poem relevant to our day by a poet relevant to our times, an image or a word or two of mine. Nearly four pm, the afternoon wanes. It’s been a beautiful day, a good day. Kept busy to tamp down the darkness. Stacking wood – good. Shoveling compost – good. Planting seedlings – good. Whitewashing paper – good. Tearing more circles for new Spots and Holes – good, although don’t know what to do with the fact that these circles of mine resemble transmission electron microscopy images of covid – had no idea.

Still, thoughts intrude, disturb – troubling Brecht poems about no meat, bad bread,  potatoes speaking dire warnings… disturbing poems, not relevant says the censor within… those were the shortages of other war-times. Not like here and now – the likelihood of descent into scarcity and deprivation can’t can’t happen here and now… unless you are among the millions of unemployed, homeless, poor. But I mean the bones, the infrastructure of production, supply and distribution of food. So why then did I plant my garden this year after all? Why stock up on gesso on glue sticks on paper on brown rice and beans on dental floss and toilet paper?

I won’t post Brecht’s Dream of a Great Bellyache now. Instead, let me offer Attila József and his poem Fire! about maddening vision in dark times. Attila József was a great discovery for me back in 2017; that discovery resulting in my large Dialogs with József Attila project, specifically the piece Fire! (Dialog with József Attila – 8).

Had a conversation over supper about evil. What is the motive, the inner construction of these beings who want to end health care, end unemployment insurance, end virus testing and protective measures in the midst of this raging pandemic? What will that get them, how will it protect their pleasuring themselves of their wealth and power? How can they gain from withholding even the crumbs that others deigned to scatter? There is no dictionary to translate this. The mind freezes.

I read it in the daily news that the EU will soon decide about exclusion of Americans – that’s me! – although the numbers are quite low in Vermont (counting my numbers and weighing my risk, like Germans of mixed blood counted their percents). Not that I blame the Europeans now, after all, our mad mussolini decreed some months back that Europeans could not enter the US – and more to the point, who now would want any virus-ridden Americans?

Time for a Plan B. If I am to be exiled, there must be creative solutions to live with that. Ideas gestate – in case.

Meanwhile this pertinent poem by Attila József. New images of Assembled Spots and Holes will follow in the next post.


– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. June 24, 2020




by Attila Jószef


The mill’s on fire!
Don’t hurt me, it’s not my fault.
Oh God, maybe the fire’s in me!
I really thought I saw a fire,
maybe it was a dream, an omen.
That’s why I scream: Fire! Fire!
It’s a great, roaring, raging fire.
It’s gangly arms flailing toward the sky,
there’s this white glow inside
but it singes everything in sight.
Doesn’t anyone feel it? Only me?
Did all the Hungarians die already?
All the men and all the women?
But here they are walking around.
Are they flesh and blood? Or robots?
They go to movies, eat and drink.
They don’t give a dog’s dick what I think.
Can they even hear me? Or is it just me?
We have plenty of wheat, plenty of flour.
Will it be better once the angels come
and bake us sweet-bread from smoke?
Look! Fire!
You are walking into fire.
If you see me, it’s the vision of a lunatic.
He’s seen your death. You’d better believe it.
At night, in front of your eyes he’ll appear,
whisper the hot roar of silence in your ear.
Flames will spew from his raging mouth.
Your death?
Now that I don’t know much about.
I just plant myself in your ear,
trembling, roaring like a town crier:
Fire! Fire! Fire!

Early 1924
Translation by Peter Hargitai

Attila József Selected Poems
iUniverse, Inc. Lincoln, Nebraska. 2005



click here to open Fire! in PDF format



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