In a small bookstore
under the roof of a shopping mall,
looking for a gift,
I resorted to the silly habit
of tearing off the cuticles
around my fingernails with my teeth.
When I took down an anthology
of Hungarian poetry from the shelf
my right thumb started bleeding.
I didn't expect such a heavy flow:
over the photo of Sandor Weöres
a rich red mark was left.
Startled, I put the book back
and quickly took down another. A Hawk's Winter Cry
by Mikhail Lotman. On a volume by Joseph Brodsky
I left a grateful plump stain.
I had some books at home:
Bourdieu, Geertz, Huizinga.
But I wanted to leave a souvenir on each of them.
Black, white and red. Red, white and black.
Like the flags of some Asian countries.
Then I thought, why not mark the romances,
crime stories, fantasy fiction, too? I had
plenty of blood to give and didn't feel stingy.
All those intense faces with blood on them.
At one point the saleswoman seemed to mumble.
I remembered I still had to buy a gift,
and I left without asking for any recompense for my blood.
This is the bit of blood I've shed for culture.
Perhaps I would have shed more, though, if I had been asked.
Translated by Richard Berengarten and the author