Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett


Hello.  Welcome to the next in the series of CITN featured poets.  We will be looking at the work of a different poet in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


You can join the CITN mailing list at - http://www.poetrykit.org/pkl/index.htm and following the links for Caught in the Net.




City of light and city of darkness where Wallenberg

and Eichmann dueled to the death for our lives!

One to be remembered truly forever

as a torch of radiant hope for the human spirit,

the other a blot on the very soul of humanity.


                 from; Irenes Siege  by THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND












THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND (b. 1938) is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes from London and his native Budapest. He survived the Holocaust as a Jewish child hiding from both the Nazis and the Allied bombers. He took part in the 1956 Hungarian revolution against Soviet rule as a journalist on the staff of A Magyar Függetlenség. He later read philosophy at Acadia University in Nova Scotia and trained on United Press International in Montreal and The Times and The Financial Times of London. His poetry has been published by The London Magazine and The New York Times, his reviews and polemics by Poetry Review and The Times Literary Supplement. His books include eight collections of poetry in many editions, including English translations from the Hungarian of work by several little known, major Holocaust poets. His next book will be Christmas in Auschwitz: Holocaust Poetry Translated from the Hungarian of András Mezei (Smokestack, England, 2010). He can be reached at Thomland111@Hotmail.Com










Around the rails, the circus crowd sits pale

to watch the beasts perform the tricks they loathe --

They hope that I, their tamer, may just fail.

But with my whip I will control them both.


I have outfaced the adulating crowd

and I have learned to ride the lions' rage --

My early quest for freedom had its shroud

in fame found here within the circus cage.


For freedom, I pursued the painted lights

(while others dreamed of flight in tame unrest)

in tearful longing past a thousand sights --

Within my trade, today I am the best


and watch the crowd behind its fearful mask

and watch the painted lights that will seduce --

The lions' foolish master, thus I ask

if there's still time to put my life to use.




Published by Acumen, The New York Times & Poetry Platform







                                    In memoriam Kurt Waldheim...*


Small world, what, Excellency? We shall not shake hands.

I do not care how you manage to live with the murder of children

among the conquered women and spoilt vineyards and olivegroves

back in the Balkans, back in your youth: that is your affair.

But what you have done, to me and my world, that’s mine.


At last, our final meeting. You were an obedient officer

ordered to make a corpse of me,  perforce a small one.

I have survived the mayhem to make a poem of you.

I am more generous than you and far more consistent.

Old soldiers like you in public life can still be of use.


Admit the past for the sake of the future, and go in peace

at the mercy of your smouldering, sordid, meandering memories.

Or dare to persist in denying the truth and the value of life,

pretend that nothing occurred to stir your attention,

and I promise you will never escape the stench of corpses:


for I will record your name as well as the crimes

from which you say you averted your indifferent eyes,

in tales of horror to be recounted throughout the ages

till the end of the march of innocent future generations

to weigh up anew, again and again, and recoil from your life.



*... (1918-2007), former president of Austria, secretary-general

of the United Nations  and  intelligence officer of Hitler's

Wehrmacht, who died peacefully days after publicly repenting

his silence over the atrocities.


Published by Ambit, Poetry Monthly Snakeskin & Staple








Since I was young, I've been the youngest

and worshipped Venus in the sacred

and fragrant colonnades of even

her humblest serving maids.


Some of the time I've managed to

ignore the silly rules, and valued

a graceful poem higher than

a contract of employment.


And thus I've spent my life surrounded

by books and children. Now my grandson

advises me to act my age.

Outrageous innocence!


Poor stranger, I've been younger than you

for longer than you would remember.

I've celebrated life so long

I am too old to change.




Published by Candelabrum, Poetry Nottingham, The Spectator & The Recusant








All is never lost or spent --

for even

the most virtuous maiden,


the dullest descendant

of Eve,

retains a sacred scent

from the Garden

of Eden.



Published by Contemporary Rhyme








This is a landscape abandoned by gentle giants,

this edge of Cornwall where the calm

and soft, continuous curve of the rising hills

abruptly crashes into the ocean


down sheer and raw and ravaged, windworn cliffs,

down screaming depths to the boiling water --

its rockface baring the throbbing, layered structure

of granite beneath the stricken landscape,


exposing the sundazed pith to the lashing light

above and the gaze of hovering hunters:

the creatures of the heights and depths that lightly

approach the coastline from the ocean.


But landsmen reach the coast by navigating

their way along careful housing estates,

rogue industries, satellite dishes and rainsoaked farms

deserted by their young and the future;


and they arrive entirely unprepared

for the rupture, the urgent, brutal line

dividing the sullen soil that covers the cliffs

from the ocean washed by the splashing light --


the line of violence torn across the horizon

from end to end like a savage knifewound

too deep and keen and sudden and surprising

to hurt in the moment of its infliction.


Such landscapes of the soul inherited

from giants confront the innocent traveller

with a surge of passion at the edge of routine

experience, as in poetry or love.



Published by Envoi & Poetry Can







Like a river, you carry me down

washing over my senses


the fort of my seven skins has abandoned

the rite of defence to the waves


unsheltered, my nerve-raw flesh in its freedom

spatters into the current


like a river, you carry me down

between singing, mountainous shores.




 Published by Coffee House, Escape into Life & Wayfarers







                                      For James Fenton


Floating among the ice, these peaceful

soft, curly shapes reflect the sky.

The river rocks them lightly, gently,

their pace appearing slow and graceful

beneath the evening’s silver mantle.

We cannot see the fish below, but

discern from here a place of worship

that dominates this wounded landscape.



The fish cannot disturb the dead.

Indifferent, the murdered lie

swelling our rivers of history.

A friendly warlord has purged a delicate

threatening issue of principles

(which we regret). You must have heard:

a war afar stirs passions once

it has occurred on television.



They’ve left behind a tidy village

of great importance -- once, to them,

the toil of ruined generations,

a scent of sweat, the stench of fear,

spent cartridges trampled into the snow

and children recoiled from adult ways,

potential witnesses still in hiding

in crumpled bedrooms (which we regret).



Others I know marched calmly at gunpoint

and left their clothes and shoes on the shore.

They were received by the surging waves

tied in pairs to prevent survival,

to float forever towards the sea

-- rejected by oblivion.

We have erected a monument

to urge humanity: Never Again!



...A monument secured by our stubborn

pillars of fear that make us insane and

succumb to the lure of the tranquil river.

The icy current coils beyond

our will and wailing. Hear this dirge

composed for you and me, undated.

It mourns the living. We calculate

our fate in sums of overkill.



Published by Ambit & The Penniless Press







I begin with that overcrowded single bed,

my home in the winter of ‘44/45

when public affairs assumed a dismaying mask

and the threat of panic was graver even than death.

It wasn’t very wide and it lacked a headboard,

its pillows were soaked in moisture from the wall

inside the entrance of the air-raid shelter

beneath a Nazi Arrowcross Party centre.

I shared that bed through the siege of Budapest

with Irene, my mother, and my two big brothers,

one just 11, the other turning 15,

a Jewish family petrified in hiding.


A word for genocide had not been invented.

My dysentery was beyond control. Its stench

mingled with the cooking smells and the odour

of fear polluting the musty, smoke-filled cellar.

And the cellar was full of homicidal Nazis

at the brink of hysteria, under constant bombardment,

awaiting their fate as the Soviets approached the gates.

The law of the siege prescribed the execution

of carriers of communicable diseases

-- like me. I think I was saved by the cotton wool

that I nightly stole from a nearby first-aid station.

It blocked the loo, and that was blamed for the stink.



My desperate mother had sought refuge from Auschwitz,

with a stack of doctored documents I still treasure,

in that howling den of hatred. A daring ploy:

she posed as the wife of an officer at the front

and claimed a vacant flat in that elegant building

that had been cleared of decent folks by the Nazis.

We were hardly allowed to use our looted flat,

its windows blown with the blasts, between the blackouts.

Irene had engaged in a calculated act

of audacious gamble, deliberately seeking out

the hunters, the hunters! the hunters, for they would least

expect to find the hunted within their pack.



Even I knew the odds. But I have survived to write this.

There might have been two alternatives: suicide

or terror and probable death in the ghetto, exposed

to hunger, disease and the fancy of uniformed bandits.

Instead, we lived with them and heard their descriptions

of what they had done and seen, as we helped each other

to play our roles in an endless performance for life.

We were observed all the time by a constant queue

that stretched past our bed to the overflowing lavatory.

Questions were raised about the persistent theft

of first-aid supplies. Then, in a rare lull of the air-raids,

the Gestapo swooped one day to arrest Irene.



And how we could act!… Victor the Wolf appeared

in the dusty cellar inspecting the huddled children.

A little rant he was, but preened like a hero: his Hitler

moustache was sculpted, his uniform carefully pressed.

His three-quarter burgundy leather jacket glowed,

his gun holster glittered in the paraffin light.

He was blunt: The game is up, we know who you are.

Your mother is off to the Danube, feeding the fish.

But you can save yourselves... If you are smart

and admit to the truth while you may, you will be safe

in a home we run in the region for nice little Jewboys.

What do you say? A wink: You know you can trust me.



But George, the oldest brother, confronted him:

How dare you slander the sons and the wife of an officer

above your rank? I shall report you at once!

Paul piled it on: You only act big with children

behind our father’s back while he’s doing his duty...

Go on, be brave at the front!  As for me, I dried

my eyes to stare very hard, and tried not to blink.

Did our robust retort confuse the ambush?

What else might explain why Victor failed his chance

for the Arrowcross test of race -- to look for proof

beneath  the duvet in a country where only 

Jews and some foreigners had their sons circumcised?



And Irene? More than six decades later, I reconstruct

the drama from her old stories, probably accurate.

She was small and strong. She was protected by passion.

A butcher's daughter in love with her gentleman husband,

at 37 she must have been at her prime,

entirely devoted to her refusal to die.

Expressive, widely set eyes, high cheekbones, arched brow.

Her firm and generous body was tried by hunger.

In a bygone existence, a mischievous brother once chased

me into the bathroom where she stood reaching towards

the towel: she smiled at me like a goddess and stamped

into my heart the glory of female beauty.



Now she stood in the over-draped drawing room

of a fortified Schwab Hill villa in Buda, adjacent

to Hotel Majestic, the base of Eichmann's detachment

administering the racial cleansing of Europe.

Before her, a line of suspects led up to an "expert"

of human classification, in charge of their fate.

The woman in front of my mother was a brunette,

like Irene, but you could not tell if she was a Jewess.

Distinctive Jewish features do not exist.

The disgruntled specialist wielding the final decision

was weary of whining. The woman at last

before his polished desk was too frightened to whine.



My mother watched as the woman unfolded some papers,

to be dismissed with a flick of his manicured fingers.

His hand reached forward in a continuing movement

as he rose from his chair and almost gently took hold

of her chignon hung lean against the nape of her neck.

He drew her head towards the electric light

above the fateful desk and carefully studied

the shape of her nose in profile. Her ashen lips

gave way to the mute, vibrating grimace of panic.

He did not pronounce a decision, just tossed the papers

into the bin. The queue moved forward again.

The whimpering woman was dragged out by two soldiers.



Irene then seized the pink hand and shook it with cordial

admiration. My dear doctor, she purred,

you amaze me. That Jewess might have deceived me.

But you have unmasked her. Accept my congratulations.

The official recognized a voice with authority.

Oh, madam, he clucked in toners of genuine modesty,

we do what we can, but the task is frightfully hard.

The devious Jews never cease to invent new tricks

to subvert the cause… But why are you here? She sighed

with suffering patience. He added: Our agents are urged

to be vigilant at this hour of national peril.

Still, they must answer for disturbing your peace.



And he sent her home to avert yet further distress,

escorted by four officers, with his apologies.

The vehicle's headlights were switched off: a precaution

despite the restful pause in the Allied bombing.

The empty, snowbound, freezing streets were lit

by the brilliant fireworks of the cloudless sky.

My abused and defenceless city lay numbed by terror.

A rumble of artillery fire bounced over

the Buda hills as the party crossed the wide river.

The crackle of small arms fire told of the raids

of Arrowcross gangs on civilian shelters, staged

under pretext of hunting for Jews and deserters.



Few people ventured out between the curfews,

mostly women and children, driven by hunger.

Their young men were lost. Even the old and some boys

unfit to fight were being deployed in the path

of the Soviets by the German occupiers 

and their pitiless local “brothers-in-arms”.

And the city was being destroyed by the bombs so fast

that untended pain and panic reigned in the ruins.

Irene was of this city and knew every alley

far better than any military driver.

True to herself, she was to remain for life

faithful to her love of this treacherous city.



City of light and city of darkness where Wallenberg

and Eichmann duelled to the death for our lives!

One to be remembered truly forever

as a torch of radiant hope for the human spirit,

the other a blot on the very soul of humanity.

The deportations to murder, from which Wallenberg

managed to rescue legions of captives, persisted

until the tightening noose of the Soviet siege

duly severed all communications.

The orgy of death went on to the end in the ghetto.

The city was made to pay a horrible price

for its foolish embrace of the Nazi rule of Europe.



Irene caught a fleeting glimpse in the twilight of shrunken

abandoned corpses here and there on the pavements.

There were no animal corpses. Like rats, the civilians

converged on the dying horses as soon as they

collapsed from fatigue, and tore them apart for food.

... At last my exhausted mother was safely delivered

to her destination by her gallant escorts.

They  greeted the sentry, saluted and clicked their heels

and turned to meet their own, very different destiny.

Irene flew down the stairs -- each step a joy! --

to the children sitting up in the bed that was

our home at 66 Pannonia Street.




Published by the BBC World Service, Contemporary Review & The London Magazine









Rational thinkers, what can you make

out of a nightmare seen fully awake?


Nightmare, funeral, watch it if you dare --

crawling at the crossroads everywhere:


slow hearse upon hearse driven nose-to-tail

by exhaling corpses, drawn and frail


and through each damp windscreen, the light will betray

your very own features decayed with the day.





O, the faces, the faces I know. I am greeting

reliable Richard approaching; he cannot see me

on his way to his well valued vault with central heating,

airtight, sound in predictable monogamy.

He welcomed me there as a boy.


His clever spectacles blind, his moustache still growing,

he sells life insurance policies to the dead.

His tranquillised, loyal wife (I cannot help knowing)

dreamed of me in her spotless, guilty bed --

to his lukewarm, conjugal joy.


Yet he had been alive to passion and anger

and raged at foul indifference till, stage by stage,

he gave himself up to monotony's languor

for death alone could save him from middle age.


Richard worked. Outside, the living seasons faded.

Like so many, he grew valued in his trade

and his fierce opinions slowly lost their meaning.

Yet his feelings still can flare (as I have seen)

when he shelters refugees.


Dear Richard, rest in peace.





Here comes Orgie Porgie, absorbed contriving

manly new achievements, carefully driving

his hearse to his home below.


His swollen corpse of a child is slowly blending

into the business suit of his funeral day,

a fumbling toy manufacturer earnestly bending

to adult games -- but he has forgotten how to play.


He buried himself in a hungry portfolio;

so well imitating the shades in the money profession,

he managed to die of repression.


But life penetrates the shallow graves like teeming

mould employed to re-manufacture the earth,

and when he's not counting his liquid assets' worth

poor Orgie Porgie goes on dimly dreaming --


He sees himself as a hesitant

visitor in a butchery-plant

where living beasts are stripped of their hides to increase

the marketability of their flesh, thus enriching

profit returns: alive and naked and twitching...


Gentle Orgie Porgie, rest in peace.





That well known figure advancing like infection

is the corpse of Thomas Wonder-Land, Esq.,

a master of gaining the gullible graveyard's affection

for any truth without actually being a liar.


He boasts, for public service he never gave,

a newspaper by-line across his early grave.


He was once a poet

but poetry didn't pay,

so he chose to conform to a lucrative line and to tow it

hereafter: he died insisting he'd had his own say.



His women sought love; he pinned them in style

like leaves on his wreath, a mean lover displaying a lean,

sophisticated smile

where his sensuous lips had been.


Like a scalpel, he wields cautious views on communal affairs,

a cold writer scorched by private emotions he dares

not admit; but in public he does not scruple to giving

advice inciting the world to catastrophes

for even a rotten writer must make a living.


Wretched, unhappy departed, rest in peace.





Faces, dead faces, O

the faces, the faces I know.


Uniformed Roger drives a policeman's hearse

for he failed to become a musician, duty bound

to safeguard the graveyard's rest from the dubious curse

of troublesome souls who might raise a disturbing sound.


And property agent Alec so good at selling

he can disregard the essential use of a dwelling.


And the aircraft assembler returns without questions to bed

so deep he can't hear the bombers overhead.


And the scientist doesn't mind in his funeral ride

whether he worked on semen or humanicide.


Faces that melt and faces that slowly harden,

unseeing eyeballs and withering, yellow skin

shaded by windscreens, taking their daily place

devoid of intensity, mischief or love or sin

in an endless procession led by a hearse from space

with a corpse that forgot to cultivate his garden.


Corpses, let it cease,

corpses, rest in peace...





Rational thinkers, shall we ever

bridge our divorce from passion that drives

people to give up their precious lives

and bury themselves through their own endeavour?


Our sombre vehicles make their way

in endless, divergent lines that betray

the earth; unfeeling they coil with ease

and spread like maggots through a cheese.


I must take my place in my own unblessed

premature funeral, or try to revive

these volunteers seeking the final rest

before they bury the world alive.




Published by Resurgence & Snakeskin








When hatred rules the nations,

I choose without regret

to be a refugee

among the patriots.





Published by Reflections








My name? Kurt Eichmann. I am the son, not the monster.

You may relax your face. I am your age

and you and I both share my father's shame.

You think you're innocent? I'm responsible

for my father's deeds just as you are for yours.

I am condemned by my inheritance,

the trains and Auschwitz. So is all humanity.

I must embrace my place and role, and bear

my name for I can rearrange the past

no more than you can change your skeleton.



He looked like me, my father. He was warm,

he loved his children, women, fun and flowers.

He obeyed in full the exterminating state

and thought in terms of tame processing quotas.

Perhaps he managed to avert his eyes

from the purpose of the national enterprise --

perhaps he was, like his entire nation,

hysterically drunk with fear and hatred --

or, like me, he thought he must fulfil his role --

He is condemned for lacking exceptional courage.



And did he love the stench of burning flesh?

He was a man of the stopwatch, not the gun,

an author only of railway timetables, an architect

of ovens only and chimneys, a planner translating

the people's will to kill into detailed instruction,

a man of industry only doing his job.

He thus extended human experience by learning

to channel rage and passion into detachment

and patient dedication to a purpose

beyond a person's modest comprehension.



Today we know we all need exceptional courage

and all of us must answer for our souls.

I am a German and heir to Goethe's poetry,

a European, heir to the dream of Erasmus,

a Christian, heir to the faith of Jesus the Jew.

I am condemned to keep alive the name

that must confront humanity with our

capacity for suicidal detachment

as well as love. My role is to enhance

our common inclination towards survival.




Published by The Journal, Pennine Platform & Snakeskin




4 - Afterword

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