Thursday, March 4, 2010

Playing Hopscotch in the Hospital? (2 poems)

March 4 is my mother's birthday! So here are poems about mothers and daughters


Sur les amandiers au printemps
Ruisellent vieillesse et jeunesse.
La mort sourit au bord du temps
Qui lui donne quelque noblesse.

René Char

[Over the almond trees in the spring
Flow old age and youth.
Death smiles at the edge of time
Which gives it a sort of nobility.]

‘tis written in the wind
‘tis written in the trees
so tightly gripping
the sky’s empty slate.

At my lover’s house
the wind writes
with tall pine trees
Furiously it bends their tips
and writes its plot
on the heavy clouds’ slate

At my lover’s house
the words of the wind
are the storms of the rain
The wind writes its plot
with ferns trembling
over my body’s slate
and into the green black woods
in my dream I am erased.

‘tis written in the wind
‘tis written in the trees
so tightly gripping
the sky’s empty slate.

At my mother’s house
the wind writes
with the shimmer
of flowing eucalyptus
It writes an invisible plot
on the sun’s blinding slate

At my mother’s house
they always look to the sea
But the words of the wind appear
in the shadows of the trees
where already the black bull
lies in wait.


At my daughter’s house
the wind cradles a sort of smile
in the crook of the almond tree
It writes its plot with pale blossoms
and showers petal ciphers
on the green grass slate

While the parade of school children
tubas and flags its way to the arena
where thin poplar trees
write the wind’s hurried plot
on the field’s cinder slate

‘tis already written in the wind
‘tis already written in the trees
But she arrives with the clamor of the crowd
to take her place in the relay race
Her outstretched hand
captures the baton
And over the cinder track our daughter runs
faster than the wind.

(Copyright 1989 by Catherine Tihanyi)

Hopscotch in the Hospital

Hospital paved with square tiles
undulating down hallways
till intangible lines reveal
a game of hopscotch
its skipping numbers jutting
to corridors’ ends
whirling rectangles
dizzying up the walls
then falling to the ground
again and again

Like blood lines perhaps?
Like my baby’s veins
curly and deep and thin
so the needle must be twisted
again and again in one arm
then the other
while in pain’s silence a single tear
runs down her cheek
you’re not alone you’re not alone
says the mother’s hand holding
the daughter’s foot

Yes she played hopscotch
a beached child’s soul
stuck in atmospheric grit
inner compass lost
to so many circuitous roads
landed in Brussels (why not)
long ago
schoolyard lines
of chalk squares numbered
throw your marker and hop
to oblique victory
but she preferred
making pretend houses
sweeping fall leaves into maps
the bedroom the livingroom the kitchen
she should have been an architect!

Trains make lines too said her mother
in her long ago hospital
sailor dress pigtails
hopscotch in the street
singsonging in Hungarian
squares drawn with a stick
in the dirt no cars
to speak of
I was very good
a champion hopper
won lots of games
In pain’s silence
a single tear runs down her cheek
was she alone was she alone
says the daughter’s hand
emptied of the mother’s foot

And my daughter
with the curly veins
didn’t she play hopscotch
in Berkeley USA
after I too wandered her
(a bad habit) too long
there was no shortage of chalk
in the schoolyard then
but she preferred to study
the underside of things
hanging upside down on the monkey bars
for hours till falling down
head first in the sand

Am I really hopping in this hospital?
on one foot and the other
in endless corridors of hopscotch squares
I can feel my foot lifting off the ground
I’m a spring
flying yes I’m flying
coming down on two feet in the double squares
turning around hopping to the end
my marker always hits the mark
what fun!

But what marker is that?
asks her spiraled brain
playing a snail shaped
hopscotch game
you hop to the middle
and if Escher allows
you hop back again
her brain convolutes
on the marker a dot
and her inner gaze
finds in it
another snail shaped
hopscotch game
with a dot and a hopper
again and again
oh, so that’s the game
in wonder she moans

The hum of a morphine drip
while in pain’s silence
a single tear runs down her cheek
you’re not alone you’re not alone
says the daughter’s hand holding
the mother’s foot

(Copyright 2008 by Catherine Tihanyi)


  1. Kati, I know that you're not one to toot your own horn, BUT, would you please aim me to any publications of your work? I have gone to amazon and found tons of your translation work, but I would absolutely LOVE to have any of your original poetry or prose. Not to complain about your blog, obviously, because each and every entry moves me. But, your stuff is so incredible, so out of this world awesome, that I just can't imagine that it's been contained in your home and on blog pages? Please aim me toward something. And, if I sent it to you, would you sign it? I don't mean to sound so forward, but, your writing is just so incredible and I just...I don't know how to say it. I don't mean to be so forward. I just, WOW! You are such an incredible writer and I would love to have as much of your work in my greedy little hands and in my brain as is possible.

  2. Oh my goodness Smagy! You're sooooooo kind. I wish I did have a poetry book published but I don't. I did send some poems to some poetry journals but they weren't accepted. I probably should do more research to find the right journal but I'm not that into it just now. But hey, who needs some silly journal when you have The Fly!

    My poetry is different from the mainstream because I have sounds clashing in it rather than flowing, though I do like other people's flowing poems --it's just not my thing. Maybe I'm writing in a style that is the equivalent of atonal music? I'm not sure what that means, but you would since you're a musician.

    I do have a couple of scholarly articles published, and gasp, my dissertation on blood feuds in Corsica. The beginning is so forbidding because my advisors kept on asking what I was driving at, so I kept on adding explanations at the beginning which grew longer and longer. But the rest has to do with stories from the Corsican chroncles spanning the 14th to the 16th centuries... By the way, did you know that Othello was really Corsican? He did strangle his highborn wife and the story made it to all the courts in Europe and inspired you know who! There was no Iago though. Sampiero Corso got pissed off because his wife took off with all his money and was on her way to Genoa but he caught up with her.... the rest, as they say, is history...

    You know, I'm such a procrastinator! It took me 16 years to get my PhD (after more years than I can count to get my butt back in school and get my MA --it was during an economic recession so I couldn't get a job at the time. I had just moved to --run away!-- to Washington State).

    I used the excuse I was working, teaching, translating, raising kids, commuting --but the truth is that I tend to indulge in way too much daydreaming! It could also be seen as a tad, or more, self destructive! (also I might have felt I needed to get a PhD because I had dropped out of high school after the 10th grade --which upset my mother so I had to be sent to the US (Kalamazoo!) to my aunt to learn English and I accidentally got into the university and did ok)

    By the time I got my "terminal" degree in 1999 and I became human in the eyes of Academia, my atrial fibrillation which had been messing with me since age 13 got a lot worse --so I had to declare disability.

    I suspect you would appreciate the musical
    experience of atrial fibrillation ("lone afib" because my heart is otherwise in good shape). The pace maker takes its cue from the atria, but when the atria goes into its irregular mode, the pace maker switches to its own mode. So what happens is that the atria is playing modern jazz and the pacemaker marching band music! And I can hear/feel them both at the same time! Therein lies the explanation for atonal poems?