street scene


A human being who managed
a hearty lunch, or observed
in comfort from the kerbside
the neighbours’ shrunken faces
during their faltering march,
isolated, deserted,
herded in hatred towards
the killing fields by the Danube –

how could such a person tell
upon what appalling shores,
and over what gaping abyss
I guard against missing a step
and what tenacious powers
tie me still to this place,
and what is the weight I must
carry in isolation?

I’m holding such human beings,
in truth, alone in my arms,
and if no-one prevents my fall
and if my strength should fail
and the final crumb of compassion
should at last be lost...
if no-one comes to my aid,
the abyss will swallow us all.

Magda Székely (1936-2007)

Translated from the Hungarian and edited by Thomas Land

The photograph shows a street in the Budapest Ghetto, 1944.

If you have any comments on this poem,  Thomas Land would be pleased to hear from you.