Kertész: Latrine

By George Szirtes b. 1948 George Szirtes

Four poilus in a wood austerely shitting.
Death watches them, laughing, its sides splitting.

Life is a cry followed by laughter.
The body before, the waste after.


Could one hear in that wood the gentle click
of  the shutter like the breaking of a stick
or the safety catch on its climacteric


Like the four winds. Like a low fart that rips
clean air in two, like urine that drips.
Four squatting footsoldiers of  the Apocalypse.


Kiss them lightly, faint breeze in the small  leaves,
be the mop on the brow, the sigh that relieves.

Let them dump and move on into the dark plate
of  the unexposed future, too little and too late.

Source: Poetry (February 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2008
 George  Szirtes


George Szirtes was born in Hungary and emigrated to England with his parents—survivors of concentration and labor camps—after the 1956 Budapest uprising.

Szirtes studied painting at Harrow School of Art and Leeds College of Art and Design. At Leeds he studied with Martin Bell, who encouraged Szirtes as he began to develop his poetic themes: an engaging mix of British individualism and European fluency in myth, fairy tale, and . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity


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