Mária Ferenčuhová

Tidal Events

translated by James Sutherland-Smith

Reprinted with permission of Shearsman Books.



Summer does not depart, remains as inflammation on stale roads.
hot stone, not even traces of steps (and yet moist air);
wounds do not heal, the same movement every afternoon — wiping
dust with a hand from your eyes and oil from the scorching wheel. October.

Not even a return: enduring in the gaps — the city does not remember,
neither do you want to: numb footsoles, chapped hands, why not confess —
alley, passage, the street discloses from behind the corner instead of (another)
memory. Next. Likewise.

And on a platform a madman, completely shabby
(nobody is scared of him anymore), the transfer station Réaumur Sébastopol:
at the very top a man is asleep in his socks,
from one a bandage sticking out, but only a few dare to cover their nose.

Outside a window without blinds someone is getting drunk,
all alone, behind a window with a blind I do my face,
I don’t air the room, quietly I set the phone,
and finally fall asleep.


Finger code, noise, secret entrances, angry with yourself
for recklessness (in the first moment) for reasonableness (in the second)
and resenting the solitude — what virtue? In terms of eternity
it’s all the same, whether in this world alongside this body
(or with another), in terms of the moment: vote emptiness. And wait.

Old woman, not really old, rather already burnt up, perhaps senile
and perhaps deranged from the year dot, rides up and down the elevator,
greets the world at large, repeats aloud, “Yes, yes” to the numb,
with an obliging expression says to everybody “Sir, Madam”,
and touching the cheeks of children with her fingers.

With a skewer to the belly, to another a word to the heart:
Quarantine, forty days of silence.
Flame, cellophane, a scorched idea
you infect the whole colony by yourself and you wonder,
if they’ll condemn you.


There are houses made of wood, plastered or just canvas pasted on,
carpets instead of walls, in the corners cables, in the cracks dust
and wind under the door.
An instant boil kettle, microwave, double cooking plate,
whoever sleeps,
doesn‘t move. Follows the meanders, doesn‘t detect that on the banks
there's no green, doesn't notice pavements, continues further,
to where they ride a camel,
with a rucksack on their back,
where grey blocks of flats stand in the sand only they gleam,
as in the suburbs,
and under the windows tents,
a fountain without water and the sky in flames,
you want to return to the river, there's no way,
— not in a dream, and therefore not at all —
and it’s enough to open your eyes, run along the walls.
burning carpets, acrid smoke
barefoot without aprons:
these stairs
still standing.


They said that the treatment of the trees would absorb
a tenth of the budget and would not be effective.
The disease spreads from the Balkans,
it remains there unrecorded,
and therefore they've agreed to felling without protest.
They’ve opened a vertical steel space,
a glass palace, they’ve protected themselves with light that
by degrees penetrates up to the dark
uncontrolled areas,
expelling parasites purifying mycelia,
if need be isolating it from the healthy core and
not allowing infection.
The labyrinth of cold light
smooths faces, removes their features
and with a sharp finger points at the sick.


Shifting under the surface of the road, by submerged river,
vena cava places, on the banks drying out
the foundations of dwellings, filling cracks
with one’s own warm body,

with a working tool like an extended arm
catching more fortunate lives:
bourgeois families, three children, four cars
and a pedigree dog.

In slow motion installing the seals,
dams for the elements,
and secretly leaving in them a reserve
at least for a single saucy hair.

Returning during the night
capillaries of urban circulation
and humbly waiting as long as the other
untamed world does not awake.


Suddenly it is here:
in whole flocks
they tumble down headlong
like fossilized birds.
the wind blowing their writing, ash
in hair, cooling pavements,
soft and cosy,
full of splinters and rubble, broken bodies.
The closed arms of the built over earth:
with eyes covered with a band of glass wool
she indifferently offers a smile to the cameras
and in the general hubbub silently
focuses on a lower trembling
tickling the soles of her feet,
after which hurtle packs of stampeding


Witness of, not survivor of.
Every perception remains under the skin,
You press, it hurts: you know where you have to press.
Phantom pain

hurts just like the real.
Travelling in large machines, yielding to their mercy

and only then feeling fear.

Walking around cities.
You know where you have to go. You know where to look.

Only rarely do you talk about it.

© Mullek and Sherwood