- Czech Republic -
David Vichnar holds a double PhD from Charles University and Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris. Apart from lecturing at the DALC, he teaches at ECES and at the University of South Bohemia. He works as an editor, publisher and translator. His publications include Joyce Against Theory (2010), Hypermedia Joyce (co-edited, 2010), Thresholds: Essays on the International Prague Poetry Scene (edited, 2011), Praharfeast: James Joyce in Prague (co-edited, 2012), Terrain: Essays on the New Poetics (co-edited, 2014) and Subtexts: Essays on Fiction (2015). He translates into English from Czech (Louis Armand, Snídaně o půlnoci, 2013), German (Melchior Vischer, Second through Brain, 2015) and French (Philippe Sollers, H, 2015). In 2011-15 he co-edited VLAK magazine. Vichnar co-organises the annual Prague Poetry Microfestival, and manages Litteraria Pragensia Books and Equus Press. His research and teaching areas include James Joyce studies, modernism & modernity, 20th century experimental literature, historical & postwar avant-garde, contemporary fiction, and historical & modern literary theory.
Translated by David Vichnar
I Love My Grandmother More Than Young Women / I. Miluji svou babičku víc než mladé dívky
“Nature’s most beautiful gift is life,
life’s most beautiful gift is youth,
youth’s most beautiful gift is love.”
[…] I’m grandma’s favourite. It’s not my fault, she took to me from my earliest boyhood. Instead of dishabituating myself from my grandfilial bonds, circumstances granted me her presence more and more often. For her part, it was the need of higher-quality medical care that brought her to my town, I on the other hand had no idea what to do with a title-adorned unemployment, and rather than work at phone support or sell hamburgers I’d go to hers. I’d snuggle by her bed as she tickled me under the chin and professed her love to me childishly, and I sat by her even when in throes she would beg me: “Kill me and bury me in the ground!”
I myself didn’t like grandma very much. I was, just like Havel’s republic, round twenty years of age, the optimism of the hooray-90s twitching in spasm and I, following adolescent premonitions, was at last dramatically coming to terms with tradition imposed upon me as part of the process of humanising the animal. Gone was both artistic provincialism and disarrayed sexuality with its originator called the Catholic church, or possibly the love of one’s neighbour, neighbourer and neighbourest, including love grandfilial. I made the vulnerable grandma into a monstrous symbol of hypocrisy of all kinds. In chapels, which to my mind blended with coffins, while suddenly in the gust of life every single tree was suddenly asway, I even cursed her vulgarly, feeling myself morally superior to her from the position of the disappointed. We were both suffering.
My own shadow whispered to me about suicide. The new meaningless life was busy playing Nietzsche by urging me to seize my own body and turn it itself into word-value. And so I donated my eyes to studying, my legs carried me through the seven seas, my lap accepted the fate of ascetic dreams… Sadly, neither the previous period of Apostle Peter, nor the current phase of Judas brought me a sufferable inner composure. Even if I changed my name, emigrated, had myself operated on… there was no escaping the past. Its ultimate triumph, when upon setting foot to a desert island with my books in hands and seeing inside a pristine jungle saw the same icon grandma kept under her pillow, was the authority of Childhood.
My grandma! I’ve yielded to many a siren of this world and now it remains for me to discern this piece of banality that vainly I’ve been beating to death inside me in favour of imagination. I shall spread it out like something non-banal and fasten myself to it. […]
II Love My Grandmother More Than Young Women / II. Miluji svou babičku víc než mladé dívky
“School of life”
As I cut myself while depilating a kiwi – “Now you’re going to have to graduate from another school, the ordinary kind. You’ve got to learn to cook, tidy, change the sheets… I’ll be your schoolmistress.”
“I know that I know nothing”
- Socrates! (stuck in her head thanks to TV quiz shows)
- Where do you know him from? The factory?
- Yeah, he worked the drawing board next to me and wore a striped shirt.
“Although I’ve got nothing, I always give you something.”
Through these words, grandma defined herself more appositely than how she’s appropriated by the sociological dictionary, i.e. “the grandmother is a very important institution for the functioning of the family and a systemic feature.”
I’m growing old – I’m in the way – I’m more and more redundant – less and less self-reliant – only my hardships proliferate…
Old age needs to express itself sensibly, this even through its nonsensicality, once it ceases to be helpful by its own means. So what, that grandma can look after the kids, help out in the household, have stories to tell… Days will come when she’s more helpless than a child, when she doesn’t help and can barely speak.
That’s when I’ll love her the most.
She never got drunk.
She fled all the skips immediately after she helped decorate the dancehall. No flirting, let alone Dionysus.
Her harshest swearword was “jiminy”.
She never saw, had no need to see, the sea.
She never climbed a mountain peak.
She’d been abroad only once, a work outing, no distinctive impressions.
No vestige of charisma, intellectualism, interest in sports…
No fewer than three sturdy fellows dragged grandma up the church stairs today.
“Well at least I’ll give them something to remember.”
If only one could preserve those moments in which nothing special happened…
III Love My Grandmother More Than Young Women / III. Miluji svou babičku víc než mladé dívky
“A combination of the microwave oven and puppet theatre.” /V. F./
Originally purchased as an attractive companion to grandma’s solitude. A distractive voice with no ears. Later an intruder in the time of our visits. I visited with view to the TV programme, so as not to disturb her favourite shows. And when sometimes we had nothing to say to each other, it was I turned the TV on.
The TV often clamoured for no-one. Clamoured while grandma was crying. Clamoured during our parting. In the background of every pathos trundled the prescribed, edited, regime-sanctioned… clamour.
“The grandmas have only interpreted the fairy tales, in various ways. The point, however, is to change them.” (Karl Marx)
“When I hear the word grandma, I reach for my gun.” (Joseph Goebbels)
“It’s one giant leap for grandma, and absolutely nothing for mankind.” (Neil Armstrong)
Before bedtime she’d come tuck us in, wishing goodnight to every single body part individually. Beginning with the head and down toward the feet:
“Good night, li’l hair, good night, li’l eyes, good night, nosey…”
“Leave out the li’l tongue, we’ve still got some talking to do.”
“Good night, li’l neck, good night, li’l hands, good night, li’l chest, good night, tummy, good night, li’l legs…”
“You’ve left out the wee-wee!”
One time I came to the hospital when she was down with the flu, and so I had to put on a plastic coat, a facecloth, a pair of gloves.
How terrible – kissing her mouth through a facecloth. Shaking her hand through a glove.
Turning to ashes
The lot bestowed upon humanity by ur-mother Eve.
From grandmother Marie I know the contrary obsession of dusting (as if cleaning-up were a revolt against death; in tidied-up spaces I don’t quite feel like myself).
There’re various kinds of dust (perhaps someone will find that comforting?): clay dust, flower dust, skin dust, book dust, even stardust, dust from the stool of mite who feed on dust. Dust in the form of a crust, wisp, wind or the dusty trail.
Dust gathers on anything long untouched.
While dusting, there’s new dust peeling off my hands.
Dust is born even when I touch you.
IV Love My Grandmother More Than Young Women / IV. Miluji svou babičku víc než mladé dívky
So it goes. I’m dating a young woman.
She’s been through enough for her years; she offered me a room, all the banality of love: Let’s be okay together, that’s enough; she gets sick quite often; grandma’s features in her face… But that’s another book.
Still, in order to seal the change, I considered it appropriate to spend a night with the young woman in the oasis of grandma’s flatlet. Meanwhile the old girl was lying at the hospital. I dressed us up in her clothes and made our bed underneath a bed trapeze unit, thinking that…
“I cannot sleep in here”
…was the title of the reportage my darling wrote for me regarding that night. The ancient décor, so appealing, took a terrible effect in her eyes from the first glance. Make love here?
Among other things she wrote:
She didn’t say “I cannot sleep in here”, but she would rather have said it. It was raining outside.
“Get dressed for bed in some of grandma’s clothes.”
“I’m not gonna sleep in your grandma’s clothes, am I.”
“But grandma’s my love.”
“I know, well...”
“Don’t be afraid”
Neither did I manage to do without a moment of horror that night: woken up by a dream about grandma’s funeral. “Don’t be afraid,” the girl dressed in her blouse was soothing me, “when you dream about these things they seldom happen.”
I recalled the words grandma would like to shout out of the casket at the mourners at her funeral:
“I’m still dreaming, thinking, remembering,
how for all I have I have to thank you.
To say this is a feat quite daring:
I love you from all my heart, I do.”
That night, sure enough, she didn’t die. Something worse happened however: What died was the exclusivity of my love for her.
Grandma, I love a young girl.
And just like you we’ll be spending most of our time together in beds.
WHAT YOU WERE BORN FOR (Excerpts) / K ČEMU JSTE NA SVĚTĚ (Úryvky)
What was Sappho born for?
To become a lesbian, alas.
To set a good example
for many a non-hetero lass.
To make their own coming out
the second, true delivery
into a world that accepts
both being faithful and being free.
What was Cassandra born for?
For no-one to believe.
Even as she prophesises: “You’ll die,”
you still object: “But I… haven’t lived.”
What were the Sirens born for?
Or perhaps only half-born?
For you to leave your mommy
for another, older memory,
and dare to become airborne.
What was Psyche born for?
For Amor himself to ascertain
what love’s all about, and Venus
to become a little less certain.
The Olympus becomes all smoggy,
the selfie-stick hovers over the cenotaph,
dwindle on, split Psyche,
in the obtuse angle of analysis.
What was Dido born for?
To burn pregnant.
A true hero’s fate
differs from that of a husband.
He wins in battles! Ploughs the high seas!
Before no god does he soften…!
(But why does he weep so often?)
What was Eve born for?
To lay the first grandmotherly eggs.
For the snake to find a new Eden
between her legs.
What was Salome born for?
So we know how to lose our heads.
But the prophet! Cut asunder with a knife.
The tyrant, too, was to lose his life,
as she unveiled herself during her dance.
What was the princess born for?
To wait for the prince all her life.
Part of the package is real estate,
first just slay a dragon!
Then it’s happily ever after…–
But what about the dragon’s wife?
She’ll coil up round her newborn,
and weep for her dear gone.
What was Mona Lisa born for?
For women to become mysteries.
For no painting of women
to be done without their histories.
And when it’s done,
so it can always be re-daubed
by her who doesn’t recognise herself.
Is the female that which changes shapes?
What was Lady Macbeth born for?
For her to become queen.
Slay the king, dear Macbeth,
I’ll make sure all’s clean…
Do you love me? Prove it with your weapon!
Are there guards? Let’s slay them with a ruse!
He who doesn’t kill remains a virgin,
it’s marriage that puts killing to use.
What was Dulcinea born for?
No, she wasn’t. Quijote was wrong. –
Still he clings to his dream,
defying the whole wide world.
What was Lotta born for?
So you, Werther, have who to kill yourself for.
The same were she to become yours.
You wouldn’t even wish
that she had you both!
Were you two never to even meet –
you’d’ve shot yourself for the heck of it.
What was the Little Mermaid born for?
For the lechery of H. Ch. Paedophile
to boil up and spume in a little while.
We too have our lecher, you see?
Its name is “Pedagogy.”
What was Bovary born for?
In order to become a mistress.
But living her life in dreams only
brought her financial distress.
Are dreams just for the well-to-do?
Is dreamless sleep better for the poor?
What were the three sisters born for?
Moscow is far away, as is the cemetery,
we’ll just wave at the military,
soldiers who didn’t shoot for us…
Ours is life lived without much fuss.
What was Lolita born for?
For her to become La la li
May life bring me endless woe,
Lo Lu’s religion for me.
And should they put me in pri-
son just because she’s too tiny?
Watching her grow up would be the true misery.
What were trans women born for?
In an age so sex-dense
we mustn’t get deprived
What was Yoko Ono born for?
So that she’s Japanese,
and mistaken for a Muslim,
extradited into Morocco,
or plain tortured,
e.g. by Bieber’s singing.
So, John’s waiting for you up above?
Imagine there’s no heaven...
What was Hillary born for?
With her anti-Trump run such a bummer?
She can be motherly all she wants,
one motherhood doesn’t make a summer...
When again some such smart arse
sings his high praise to mothers,
know that every dunce is somebody’s son,
even Trump himself has one!
What were you, mother, born for?
We grew up and quitted,
with dad barely buried.
And our book of fairy-tales
is up for second-hand sales.
If only you took after the book...
The older it grows, the nicer it looks.
weather / počasí
only seldom is there
space in which the weather
opens up i’ve no idea if it’s
morning or evening
you say watching
the forest you say it’s
drawing near the creaking
of the sparse planks the knife
i wipe the cherry juice into
the ladder behind the shallow
window just imagine
the weather like
only seldom is there
weather in which the forest
returns in the finger-
tips we feel its deep pulse
march / březen
the billionaires have left for underground
shelters we’re dealing with another heatwave
the war slipping through our fingers
it’s good for such things
the fly amarita you say it’s the new
moon tables and armchairs in the reeds statues
with heads knocked-off i’m interested
in situations of return destabilisation
a landscape spread-out
in the shape of wings
shards a former motorway
a man with a lute on his back taking a burning
book in his hand we’ve got no
plan we never were after one i brushed against
a billboard pillar with my shoulder and
i feel somewhere behind me dawn rising
i cannot tell time from space
planes of drawing paper around
the fireplace stand four horses the situation
of return sliced
bergamot we could no longer
separate ourselves from life
we’ve got no plan we never were after one
you sit at a table
reorganising the cinders it’s the new moon
there are things inside us
there’s no way of breaking into
we hold the terrain of the situation of return
the inside and the outside
hotspot / hotspot
to believe in the world means
to incite events that
spiral out of control the ritual at the bottom
of a dry lake metaphors of sight
and light red clay architect of networks
crossing the threshold the curtain
catches on the torn wood to believe
in the world is to incite
events i turn my back on silence and
with an antique razor I make a sign
where i’ve had it
memorised the sequences of cards
keep changing some insects
disappear irrevocably others
are coming the architect of the networks opens her palm
and in it is a beetle with golden-green
elytra we’re getting ready
for the next stage and of course we have
fear somehow we work with it i’ve found
a tunnel where one can also disappear into
the first drone strike we’ve
repelled so we already can call
this place some name it’s getting
dark i’m unfolding the map and tracing the outlines
of the forgotten crossroads the architect
of networks crosses the threshold and brushes against the wall
between the sun and the moon
is a space into which
you can still fit the first raid
of drones we’ve repelled
we’re handling things to believe in the world
is to incite events
that spiral out of control
the sky has moved we’re walking through the old
ramparts, preparing for the next
stage that begins with a drawn-out
sound of a bell i turn my back the beetle
with golden-green elytra crawls
on the architect’s wrist
it’s getting dark the landscape declines
the sequences of cards are
changing in the next room there’s
a mural of the pyramid a new
sign the architect of networks crosses
the threshold the landscape declines and water surfaces
encroach into the walls
of the room i put Land of the Sun –
Jan Škrob – manuscript on the pan
two roses and i wait for the flame
we’re getting ready for
the next stage maybe tomorrow we’ll be
it’s getting dark to believe in the world means
to incite events that spiral
out of control i'm taking hold of the hammer as
if it were an object from another
world and no one knew
what it’s used for the landscape declines within the shards
i can make out the reflection of my own face a river
runs through the next room we’ve got no uniforms
but our coats are so talked about
strategy / strategie
the basis of our strategy is
irregularity a spiralling
movement a disturbance of infrastructure
it’s important to know how to be
invisible at the right moment
while knowing when to
expose yourself to attack i undress
in front of the mirror chafed by juniper branches
and leave another note for you
on the night stand it’s important
to know how to return to appear
in the gaps within gloom i say i’m
different now but really
i’m talking about something else
cornelian / karneol
a well-wrought cornelian hung
at the entrance door protects the home
from a lightning strike
a home that moves but
departs from other principles the situations
of return have no more outlines
of the door it’s about how you sit
at the fireplace in the details of gestures and faces
the days are getting shorter now and it’s important
to keep the matters of the heart
the steppe is wobbly shaky
with hot air i cover
one eye so i could see
all i need
a cornelian amulet
wrapped around my wrist
the inside and outside mingle
here the hand runs over tea
kettle the monitor becomes extinguished
out of the broken silence
crow cawing can be heard we go
where we remember the landslides
the topography vanishes in the dark
the days are getting shorter now it’s
important to keep the matters of the heart in the sparse
grass a sugar cube dissolves
inside and outside / vnitřek a vnějšek
with gentle gestures of the hand we
pass the spark that
has flown from the hearth the situation begins
with a bottle of blueberry wine
with the circular patterns of the day and the four
seasons with a protective ceremony
under the arch of the viaduct
i’m in two places
at the same time with a memory card
in the back pocket of my pants
and i walk through a narrow slit
between the rocks the sun rises
over the mountain in the distance it’s breaking
but perhaps i’m just noticing more
of certain movements and forces
the void doesn’t exist at the edge
of the swamp i felt i was
being observed intently
but when I turned around it was
a mere gust of wind
the situation begins with ash and black
sand with the symbol of a snake
carved into the door jamb
conversations about the past
the sun rises
above the mountain in the distance the basis
of our strategy is that we are
along the hidden lines we’re making our way
through the thicket by the railroad crossing
in the other side is another country of ruin
villages secret military
objects soggy forests
we disappear from sight and again
we meet at places
not determined in advance we lean
toward each other we read each other’s lips
at this crossroads i’ve seen
a jagged boulder several times
and now suddenly it’s not here
The sun rises over the mountain
in the distance and a tree stump
has merged with a reddish streak of light
i hear the horses neighing i’m leaving
for the edge of the swamp i begin
to feel the whole place
loosening and growing in all
directions i press myself against the rock
wall laced with golden veins
inside and outside merge
her the situation begins with a song
with the story of the dead
king with gentle gestures
of the hand we pass the spark
that has flown from the hearth
the flames are in the wind now
almost motionless for a second
a hint of a face
has appeared therein it begins to rain the inside and
outside are intertwined here
february / únor
the woman in a hooded
cloak lights up
the keyboard the monitor
opens up on a foreign landscape a short
video with an eagle liquidating
a drone passwords moments of silence
and finally a blurred face
of a person we
wanted to meet with
next to the laptop lies
a broken bowstring two books and
a glass dildo
the person we
wanted to meet
with talks of chaos
magic the woman in the hooded cloak
scrolls down a parallel window
the architect of networks ignites
the glass noises come from
the outside as if
some animal were
rubbing against the
trailer wall it’s hot the woman
in the hooded cloak sets up
passwords moving her lips inaudibly
she turns the direction of all
things i sleep in the crushed grass
and in my dream i become an octopus’
tentacle i wake up
with senses sharpened
it’s hot the woman architect
puts a memory card
on my chest
the direction of all things turns
in the mirror i can see the forest
palms splaying out
four rivers / čtyři řeky
a man with scars on his chest takes
a smouldering elder branch in his hand
the mountains part and their coldness
runs down my body
there’re four rivers meeting here three
live ones and a dead one the laptop
in the wet sand making a nearly
reminiscent of the wind’s rustle
i sit at a tray with a translucent apple and
with a swarm of bees behind my back it’s all
in everything you say there’re four pearls
on your forehead three black and a white one
every situation we decide
to live through really
brings us back to the world
to crevices and apertures
in the dark we become part
of the territory but the territory resists
motionlessness it towers and churns
spectrum / spektrum
the pattern in the space gets animated
through walking i’ve remembered
mushrooms dripping with translucent milk
eaten because of the slightly oppressive
feel in the mouth i’m trying to move
here so i don’t disturb
anything the soft drumbeats
keep things on one plane i’m trying
to measure time in new units
subvert its structure somewhere
i heard about it already i feel as if
i were on an island again
the wind plays on the glockenspiels i’ve remembered
unfamiliar banknotes and
coins arranged in front of the statuette
of the satyr i’m trying to keep as
broad a field of vision as possible but something
always escapes me which is a necessary component
of the method the pattern cannot be
impermeable the inner spectrum vanishes
in the exterior i lean along the branches
wind-fallen trees / polom
he data centre was in the middle
of the ravine i broke the door open
destroyed everything and went
back into the whirled-up darkness
in the morning i found a skeleton of a small
animal in the grass that was the most important
sign of the past few days i’m here every
branch movement every crevice belongs to my body the world
is not around us it moves through us i’m here theory
and praxis forest i’ve almost
forgotten about the path is overgrown vanishing
and then reappearing
beyond the crossroads
are trees fallen in the storm
you’re all in white turn to me
saying you understand me every
and ends somewhere like death
chiaroscuros chafed climate
zones chafed horizon we walk past
the ravine you say you understand me chafed plains
contour furrows undergrowth the world isn’t
around us it’s through us
i’m here and at the same time
i make way through the shrubbery while
still on the island
strong structure beneath
my feet cables and wires
buried in the ground
you warm your hands at the smouldering fire
the circular movement of time theory and
praxis the crow’s cawing this is the spot i told
you about the high bank
of the forest receding into a rock
you open your laptop searching for a signal we’re not
at the end yet you’ll be able to tell
by the smoke by the dwarf birches
invisible animals / neviditelná zvířata
we live like this: she sees invisible animals in the bathroom
I keep stumbling over her during my night walks across the flat
we dream our shallow dreams I of fast japanese cars
she of the ringing of keys signalling his arrival
every now and then she leaps up her tail shaking with excitement
then she lies down dejectedly: the mats crumpling the silent whistling
we both have grown a lot recently: through fire and smoke
through the flames of kitchen hotplates the mercies of lockdown
we wash only in low current no-one can take us aback
except for the bathroom invisibles
living their days underneath the high pile
it’s because of them our beards twitch at night
everest / everest
the life of a pheasant in the middle of a city:
how much more mysterious than people’s lives? what bothers the pheasant?
does his nervous system recognise solitude
or do his nerves resemble weed tissue?
he looks forsaken in the middle of the construction site
does he too desire the everyday?
the little subtle things
that can be repeated but not described repeatedly:
taking care of feathers taking baths in dusty pits
constantly distracted by the city
I see him from high above
the perspective has sent a street behind him into another district
broken by the trade fair palace as unwieldy as a kaaba
the grey inverse plane in front of him as deserted
as our next days
he too is colourless and yet I recognise him
perhaps due to his walk or posture:
legs like sticks measuring the building estate
without knowing it is a building estate
the scaffolding for a high-rise construction lying around
he knows not what will come but I do
as I watch him from high above
in the weeks to come he’ll live in a shadow
in the weeks to come he’ll live with the workers
under the wings of the everest scaffolding system
hunting season / lovecká sezóna
for Gary Snyder
once a year pheasants hunt human beings doing things
irresistibly attractive for humans: everyone picks one
the pheasant shoots a human who then is forced to pluck him carry home and eat it
that’s how a pheasant gets inside a human lives on in him
waits in him hiding but the human has no idea
when a lot of pheasants get inside a lot of humans suddenly they’ll attack
humans without a pheasant inside them will also be surprised
and everything will change ever so slightly: what’s called an intrinsic revolution
a night in henry’s pocket / noc v henryho kapsičce
where does love leave for when it ceases to be love?
what does it do in that kingdom? like a walnut
under the membrane of the milky wave does it last does it last?
like a lizard in the sun catching its own tail
became a stone in its malachite kingdom
where everything’s green time has ceased to be
it has left and now in henry’s pocket in a cat’s ear
still it lasts still it lasts still it lasts
delta / delta
he says he’d like to stand in ice river, walk towards ice river,
dipping his ankles in it, he doesn’t want to be called philodendron xanadu anymore.
he repeats it patiently to me like to an idiot,
as I sprinkle him with still water and he shivers all over with cold –
I don’t want to be called philodendron xanadu anymore.
the tepid water seeping into the peat, a few drops shining in the mossy substrate,
I love him, the stubborn plant who doesn’t care he lives on a shelf with books,
who doesn’t care he’s sensitive to cold, who knows what he wants and wants it in vain –
all things considered, in vain –
we need to go and discover the river, I tell him, one day we’ll discover a river,
with our apartment lying in its delta.
lake / jezero
cats hissing at you like snakes
we leave them alone at the apartment and head out to the lake
but it turns out it’s impossibly far away
its impossibility was at the germ of this idea:
the evening approaches and we’re still underway:
the sky today is like teflon tablecloth
an air column presses down the head
I feel the pain in the legs subside
but fever is drawing near
I feel everything but desire
in a snake of cars we wait for a place to park
turnstiles give cold feet: will you know where to stick it in?
a forest of mildews and pine trees growing in-between the fingers
and there’s no more room for us in the lake
there’re so many people here: two cocoa girls,
coming out of a czech blonde and a senegalese
a rachitic youth carrying his adult sister in his arms
(contorted legs and a diaper soaking with lake water weigh her down)
the air is full of their laughter
the smell of garlic frisbees beer sausages sweat and pine trees
the air is full of everything except for desire
come closer / pojď blíž
at the swimming-pool you encounter bodies marked by birth,
bearded vaginas, a viral rash on the thighs (one’s own),
golden chains, shame. the swimming-pool knows inclusion, not epiphany:
you can sharpen your claws all day, but you won’t wash away
the fatigue and city dust (there’re showers for that)
chlorinated water has lost all its might.
in the summer the city’s different than in the rest of the seasons
as if undergoing the hardest test.
I say to it: I’ll tie you round my neck like a noose,
lay you on the tongue like a pea, for a whole decade
you’ve been so foreign, until I entered into your river
down steps made of grass and chalk minerals.
a slow current carried me from hradčany to libeň,
exposing me to carnivorous angels,
on the other bank at the market-hall a biennale was coming to a close,
to which they’d invited me as a foreigner – the posters said, come closer!
but I couldn’t come any closer, I was just in the city centre,
in the neighbourhood of nutrias and conches, of river vermin,
in the city district of underwater plants.