7th July 2022


2 minutes read

Gyula Jenei


translated by Diana Senechal

7th July 2022

2 minutes read

the poplar trees will turn yellow then, when

one night a sudden chill descends on them, and not

leaf by leaf, like the happy trees, but from one day

to the next the entire forest turns yellow, and in the

weakening day the senile leaves lose their hold on

the branches. at the end of their hesitant descent, they

fatten the fresh layer of litterfall, so that then, having dried

into brown, the dead leaf-sheets may rattle under my feet;

they may break, crumble, their tiny pieces sneak their way

into shoes, penetrate their way through socks,

become nuisances, and i may walk through dry litterfall

up to my ankles; or if it is raining, the many fallen leaves’

color may brighten, deepen, become entirely dark, slimy,

slippery, soak my footwear as i wander in the forest,

the litterfall may hide the smaller holes in the ground,

where the water lies, and i may splash in them, since

it won’t matter anyway, who cares if it prickles or soaks,

i will be alone, like god or those few bird-creatures

in the trees who turn their heads but otherwise stay rigid;

and let me be even more alone, even more

foreign, and if behind the clouds the sun flows into

the late afternoon, then the light may filter through the trees

as if it made sense, as if it were still possible; and if

the waters dry up, and when i stick a stick into the litterfall,

i may see last year’s leaf layer, the one before last year,

the thick, fat litterfall may show its year-rings like

an archaeological find, but below it the earth may stay

slimy, wet and cold, with disgusting crawlers, worms,

earthworms, cocooned lives, deaths, if it is summer,

since then the new greenery will cover the ground

with shadow, there will be no telling where the litterfall’s

bottom is, and at which point rotten leaves become fertile soil;

and i walk alone through the forest, and the litterfall

prickles and soaks, and i count the sun’s rotations sweeping

the sky, and the birds, frightened, fly far away. and only

god huddles at the top of some poplar or other.


 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.