What Will Become Of Him...

by Attila Jozsef

Attila József

What will become of him, whoever
has got no handle to his hoe,
upon whose whiskers crumbs don't quiver,
who dawdles, gloomy, thrawn, and slow;
who would from half a furlong's hoeing
keep one potato out of three,
whose hair falls out in patches, growing
bald unnoticed--who'd care to see?
What will become of him, whoever
has but five acres under crops,
whose draggled hen clucks at the stover,
whose thoughts nest in a mudhole's slops;
when no yoke clinks, no oxen bellow;
when mother serves the family soup
and steam from a liquid weak and yellow
drifts from the bottom of the scoop?
What will become of him, whoever
must live alone and work alone;
whose stew has neither salt nor savour,
the grocer gives no tick nor loan;
who has one broken chair for kindling,
cat sitting on the cracked stove's shelf;
who sets his keychain swinging, jingling,
who stares, stares; lies down by himself?
What will become of him, whoever
works to support his family;
the cabbage-heart they quarrel over,
the film the big girl gets to see;
always the laundry--dirt's slow strangling--
the wife's mouth tastes of vegetables,
and when the light's off, silent wrangling,
gropings, eavesdroppings, darkness, rules?
What will become of him, whoever
idles outside the factory,
a woman meanwhile hauls the lever,
a pale-skulled child sets the fusee;
when through the gates he gazes vainly,
vainly humps bags and market-creels--
he dozes, they rouse him inhumanely,
and always catch him when he steals?
What will become of him, whoever
weighs out potatoes, salt, and bread,
wraps them in newsprint's inky flavour,
and doesn't brush the scales he's read;
and in the gloom he dusts, complaining,
the rent is high, the tax is keen,
the price--but what's the use explaining
the extra charge for kerosene?
And what will come of him, whoever
knows he's a poet, sings his fears,
whose wife mops up the floor forever,
who chases copy-work for years;
whose name's a brand-name, if he has one,
just like a soap or cooking-fat,
whose life is given, if he has one,
all to the proletariat?

Last updated January 14, 2019