Ancestor Tales

Ferenc Juhász
The Boy Changed into a Stag: Selected Poems 1949-1967
"Brief confessions about myself"

Descendent of men after a different kind of richness…

It's my belief that even the great-grandparents had slithered into poverty, moulted their fine feathers, in the last years of their lives, and I am increasingly certain that it was not in actual fact economic conditions that made them poor; I believe it was often laziness or daydreaming that wrenched off here and there a piece of their land, crumbling it to smoke-dust. At least that seems to have been the case with grandfather Andresz's father, who sold off quite a few acres of land on the quite without his wife's knowledge and then spent the money on books, stowing away half of them in the attic and the rest near their maize field under a bridge, in a cavity made by removing a stone in one of its arches. From then on he spent his time reading, mostly in the attic or in the maize field. It was during the course of improving his mind thus that the ruse came to light. His wife, wondering why it was taking him almost three weeks to finish hoeing that half-acre of maize, stole after him and surprised the old fellow stretched out on his stomach under the flowering cherry-tree, greasy hat pulled down over his forehead, smoking his pipe, totally absorbed in the pleasures afforded the mind by an encyclopaedia.
Women continue to play the role of anchor in another tale of male adventure seeking.
Grandfather Andresz […] In fact it was from the grocery store that he left for America, flew away from the counter-top (they were sitting there drinking brandy on credit) without his wife knowing about it until the letter came from New York asking her to come and join him there with the children. But his wife refused to risk it, and he, having failed to set himself up with a factory out of what he made by washing dishes, came back after a year or two, as poor as when he had gone, painting the boat for his fare across the ocean back to Europe.
Allure: half-understood and totally risked. Vicarious: secondhand stories that compel admiration.

And so for day 1509