Poem for Miklós Radnóti Written at the Serbian-Hungarian Border | Sean Edgley


The train stops
in the middle of the night
at a small station made of fog
and green phosphorescent lights.
The doors open, slamming against
the sides of the train, and the boots
of the border control fill the aisle
as they begin to ask for papers.
It would’ve been September
or October in the exiled season
of your forced march
that you passed here,
cheeks hollowed out
by shadows, recalling
afternoon siestas in Budapest
that portended death
and poppy seed.
For three months you were led across
two countries, walking
until collapsing in exhaustion,
ears caked with blood.
From the vantage point
of the grass, memory wove
a garland around the sun
like a ring of young girls
circling a record player.
Witness to the execution
of other internees at the hands
of their own countrymen
you continued on, beaten
for writing in the small
Serbian exercise book
you kept in your trench coat,
from where you tried to balance humanity
like a pencil on your finger.
They led you to a field
of leafless trees and sketched nooses
in the air, laughing.
One November day in 1944
in a village near the Slovakian border,
shovels were passed around.
In the sky
there were no clouds.

Sean Edgley is a northern California native currently residing in Paris, France. Having finished his MFA at the City College of New York this winter, he has been recently published in the anthology Some Stories Are True that Never Happened and Scapegoat Review. He has been an adjunct lecturer at City College and was recently in Seoul for a translation residency at the Literature Translation Institute of Korea.


  1. Joan Kolenic Teare

    My uncle was shot down over Poland and then taken to a POW camp in Slovakia during WWII. When the Germans knew the Russians and Americans were getting close, they chose to take the POWS out of the camps in some of the worst winter weather and march them all across Eastern Europe for 3 months prior to the end of WWII. When finally found by the Americans, many had died. Those remaining were emmaciated, had frost-bite, and were infected with lice, along with other complications but were very glad to know they would soon be going home.

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