Sorrow Islands, The North End of Outer Hope

Author: Kinga Tóth
Translator: Annie Rutherford



an angel flew past over our heads
stonemasonswife breaks through the wall
in the café on the terrace between brightly coloured chairs
they fly away her mouth is red her wings covered in flowers
they scold or curse with lovely
words seven generations of all your father’s all your mother’s blood
each of their descendants
for every knocked down brick a man’s heart suffers
they knuckle down to work let it
rain on the town there are no stonemasons left
no one who digs ditches not a single one to be left
between bricks above the park
fly the vengeful stonemasonswives
the wind whips their clothes beads clatter in their hair
in their braids orphangirlhair orphanwomanhair
the silence of the left-behind children
the left-behind children don’t cry don’t make
a noise their limbs become pale as they
are beaten they creep into the backrooms
learn to nestle into doormats
between the fabric braids no one can reach them
their legs stretched out they lie on the threshold
the doormat is their blanket their shroud
when their back cracks from lying or from a shoe
when they don’t dare to sigh anymore
when fathersshoe crashes against their spine
dirt from fathersshoe falls into their mouth onto their face
father works father is hardworking the dust from the street
onto the floor onto the skin onto the
question which ricochets off the ground
if it’s like this if father’s quite deaf
and if there’s a crash he has gone properly deaf
then blood and only a sigh can be heard
a single constant voice
when the last sound of the doormatchildren is to be heard
mother is already fluttering round the rooftop
around the wooden house like a destroying angel
like a warning leave the shoes outside
watch where you tread
my weight is lighter than the smallest brick
his weight is lighter than the smallest rags
two kicks and the voice disappears
two kicks and you take the oven’s heat from the house
like cement sloshing onto brick the cowardshair
drips onto the mat and impurity onto the child’s face
their shoes had to be cleaned before the door
that kind of thing isn’t allowed into the flat only when it’s him
who works who makes the things who makes the something
the flat of whose hand is calloused the flat of whose hand
is industrious the flat of whose hand is broken
because his work sticks fast to it
monstrous-monstrous toil and strife
stone must be mastered iron must be bent
fire must be smothered blade must be sharpened
tools must be cleaned with leather with knife
the knife must be put in its case and sharpened
the house must be built and she who asks questions
must be walled in and silenced and then the house
must be cleaned and the antennae mounted on the roof these thirsty
veins still hang there like
the bloodthirsty buzzingthreatening quietflying stonemasonswives
their last dresses are still there the wedding dresses hang from them
which they wore twice both times too soon
and they easily fitted into them for there had been no time
to put on weight there was no time for buttons to burst off
and the coward didn’t have time to dirty
his trousers at the knee either not even time to fall or
to test the trousers in the rain before the early winter frost
and these antennae these electrical jungles
winding round each other catch the ankles
the hem of the dress the hem of the slip
which was lifted so carefully to keep it good
even before when they didn’t yet want to receive it
she didn’t want to crawl into her dress just yet
into her skin tear out her heart her liver
her gut and hold them tight and see how she
goes slack and her hair grows full of heaven flowers
like these many many stonemasonswives circling there
they called her saltprincess or saltangel
because behind the walls she shed so many tears
because her fluids wreck the mortar like
enamel because where they flow the paint the protective paint
beads off they wish in vain to cover her up
in vain they paint over her anew for easter
on monday a new figure of a woman always appears
always a silhouette a conical amphora
a raised index finger
and the salt pinched the stonemasonsfaces and
there was nothing more to be done because they became
translucent forever because the wall swallowed her up
her hair tangled up with the straps of her dress
and the women still hanging from the antennae were
like the maypoles there on the wooden houses’ roofs
maybe they didn’t have any hands any legs anymore
the whirlwinds are whirled they’re whirled
the translucent sunflower posies the kites
the faded exclamation marks

[Translator’s Notes: Kőműves Kelemen (Clement Mason) is a Hungarian folktale about the building of the fortress of Deva. The castle keeps falling down while being built, so that Kőműves Kelemen, a stone mason, is forced to sacrifice his wife and mix her remains into the mortar to make the castle steadfast.]

In 2020 the Hungarian government rejected the Istanbul Convention. One woman dies every week in Hungary due to domestic violence and 15,000 children are injured each year.



Sorrow Islands, The North End of Outer Hope

replacing with bones, welding with tape
we knead gold by the breach where it was dredged
what fell out where you thought when you didn’t dare to ask
had only seen the valley
the darkgloom stones scatter as you climb
lower are the water plants dried out the sand
is cold on the ground another crack the hot metal
into it and sand it quickly in case it flies
out of the body too glue it quickly the sand becomes salty
the gold stream salty smear the ground with the thighs
the upper arms heap hills
roll our rumps up it lie our rumps on it
our chests hollow half-circles to new
layers here the algae the coral also become salty
leaving the veins the mortar is slippery crying with salt
making gold pouring out mountains not every layer
is topped with cheerfulness but the gold is warm
and the water is warm on your face
in the armpits





in case the water lifts your legs
I hold you by your stomach at first
then you’re to let go for me
just throw yourself up from the palms of my hands
you will float like a frog you believe you
wriggle you kick them into foam
your suffocation bursts into bubbles
the water lifts your legs (it isn’t my hand that holds you)
your stomach leads me your stomach tells
the water in which direction to strike or leave you
these 2cm beyond which you don’t want to see
above my hands because of which you want me here




in my ribcage the lion
the peacocks bring feathers for my arm
I give feathers from my arm to the peacock
I let my hair become a wave in the water
covered by my dress in case the earth burns
I lift myself into the water, weed
the earth and exhale air
twice a day in case it hides
dirt and gas and smoke we all know that
this is the three-steps-mechanism my skin
I give to the leaves I make oxygen from
parchment I fray the carpet the old one
stray onto the new one we go the
carpet rises with my soles if you
can believe that our skin turns blue
slippery fine porous you can come with us can
go can step onto this fabric which we
wove a stray bit of your hair is one of the strands
became matted with the hair of mine which you cut off
but we can remove the strands you can
have your own means your dreams are your own
you are the dream’s I fly