6th July 2022


2 minutes read

Gyula Jenei


translated by Diana Senechal

6th July 2022

2 minutes read

he will be a gypsy boy, or maybe half-gypsy; but this matters

only because of a spontaneous phrase. otherwise he is the same

kind of sweatsuited devil as the rest of us. at that time only the

agronomist’s son wears jeans, and we envy him for it, but

also get along well with him. we go to upper elementary school,

maybe sixth grade, and during recess we play soccer with pieces

of tile on the pavement, because that has become our custom

over the years, as it has become our parents’ to scold us, along with

a slap in the face for emphasis,

for kicking our shoes to shreds.

if we do not play soccer, there’s always something else to do.

say, talking about the previous night’s films. i can’t add to those

discussions, though, because we won’t have a tv, i beg for one

in vain. my mother is willing to have one, but my father

digs his heels in: the radio’s enough of a liar! but he still listens

to the news, and he pieces it together. sometimes he brings his ear

up close to the little box, when radio free europe is crackling or

the voice floats behind the rattling. so i don’t know the series

in which the kuruc heroes defeat the half-witted, faint-hearted labanc

again and again, or partisans sacrifice their lives for us, so later,

when imaginary bullets fire from our fingers in the schoolyard,

in my soul i watch the whole thing from a step behind.

long live hitler! the half-gypsy or maybe gypsy-all-the-way

yells at one point, and fires furiously at his red-army classmates,

until our physics teacher arriving on the scene gives him a huge

slap in the face. the picture freezes. we stand there, a confused,

scared group of statues, and we hear, my little boy,

hitler would have sent you to the gas chamber along with the jews!

in fact

you wouldn’t even have been born! and so the game is over

for that recess, and flocking together we try to figure out

what that wouldntevenhavebeenborn could mean.


 First published in Gyula Jenei’s poetry collection Always Different: Poems of Memory, translated by Diana Senechal (Dallas: Deep Vellum, 2022).

written by

Gyula Jenei

More about the author

translated by

Diana Senechal

More about the translator


Passageways to God by Gyula Jenei
Religious attitudes, architecture, and adventure combine in a boy’s life, in a poem by the Hungarian poet Gyula Jenei, translated by Diana Senechal.
Litterfall by Gyula Jenei
A boy walks alone through the changing layers of leaves, in a poem by the Hungarian poet Gyula Jenei, translated by Diana Senechal.
Slap by Gyula Jenei
A child gets a life (or non-life) lesson, in a poem by the Hungarian poet Gyula Jenei, translated by Diana Senechal.