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Penguin Modem European Poets

Advisory Editor: A. Alvarez

Selected Poems . Vladimir Holan


Selected Poems
Vladimir Holan was born in Prague in 1905.
For seven years he worked in a pensions
office in Prague. In 1933 he became editor of Vladimir Holan
the arts reviewZivot (Life), and since 1940
has given all his rime to writing. He has Translated by With an Introduction by
published more than twenty books of poetry, Jarmila and Ian Milner Ian Milner
four prose works, and translations of Rilke,
Baudelaire, Ronsard, Lermontov, and
selected Chinese poets. After 1948 Holan was
accused of 'decadent formalism' and, though he
continued to write throughout the fifties, no
new book, except for a few earlier narrative
poems, was published until 1963. In 1965, on
the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, he was
granted the highest Czechoslovak literary
award and in 1966 the international
Etna-Taormina poetry prize for A Night
with Hamlet, which has been translated into
11;;ilian.French, German and Swedish.

Penguin Books
Contents

Penguin Books Ltd, Hannondsworth, Introducticm 9


Middlesex, England Translators' Note 16
Penguin Books Inc., 7110 Ambassador Road.
Baltimore, Maryland 21207, U.S.A. from WITHOUT TITLB
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood. Horoscope 19

Victoria, Australia No, Don't Go Yet 20


The Hour 21

First published by Penguin Books 1971 from ADVANCING


Copyright ( Vladimir Holan, 1971 Nothing Mter All 25
Translations copyright Jarmila and Ian Milner, 1971 On the Pavement 26
Dead Man's Complaint 27
Building the Tower of Babel 21
Made and printed in Great Britain by
Cox & Wyman Ltd, I Death 29
Today There Is . 30
London, Reading and Fakenham
Set in Monotype Bembo f In a Village Cemetery by the Suicides' Wall 31
Eodem anno pons ruptus est 32
Encounter V 33
This book is sold subject to the condition that She Asked You 34
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, b~ lent, Passion Week 35
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without Smiles 36
the publisher's prior consent in any form of Human Voice 37
binding or cover other than that in which it is In the Kitchen 3&
published and without a similar condition The Child 39
including this condition being imposed on the Bequest 40
subsequent purchaser October 41
Presentiment 42
Mother 43
Still Life by a Lake 44
Night After Night 45
Rope .. 46
Yes or No? 47
Stay 48
Listening to a Record 49

from TRIALOGUB
The Wall 53
'Introduction

Vladimir Holan was born in Prague in 1905. He spent his


childhood in the rolling wooded countryside of central
Bohemia but returned to Prague for his secondary
schooling. In 1926 he published his first book of verse. For
the next seven years he worked in a social insurance
(pensions) officeand during this time published two further
volumes of poetry. In 1929 he visited northern Italy; the
fascination of its architecture, scenery and cultural past
colours some of his later poetry. In 1933 he became editor
of an arts review, Zivot (Life), but since 1940 has given
all his time to writing. He has published more than twenty
volumes of poetry, apart from various selections and
anthologies, and four prose works, including Lemuria
(1940), his diary of the years 1934-8.
When Holan began writing in the late 1920S the pre-
vailing poetic manner, practised by leading poets like
Vltezslav Nezval, Jaroslav Seifert and Konstantin Biebl,
was 'poetism', a Czech adaptation, with its own higWy
coloured fantasy and easy charm, of surrealism and dadaism.
Holan's early work went along with this mood of avant-
garde virtuosity. His early volumes of poetry show a
command of inventive imagery, of metre and stmcture,
and an unusual skill in verbal play. It is a self-sufficient,
Mallarmean poetry of magic artifice. But the lights were
going out in Europe and 'poetism' went with them. The
outrage of Munich and the full Nazi occupation in March
1939 caused Holan, like his fellow poets Seifert, Halas,
Nezval and Hora, to respond with a new poetry: direct,
focused on stark realities, impassioned in tone, voicing the
popular mood of shocked resentment at the Munich be-
trayal, and an unbroken will to survive as a nation.
9
The liberation in May 1945 brought its own kind of On the occasion of his sixtieth birthday in 1965, Holan was
poetry. Collections like D{k Sovetskemu svazu (Thanks to given the title of National Artist, the highest official literary
the Soviet Union, 1945), and Rudoarmljci (Red Army Men, award.
1947), render, sometimes rhetorically, sometimes in- A Night with Hamlet was written during 1949-56, the
formally, both the hopes of the immediate postwar years grim years of isolation, and was finished in 1962. Interviewed
and the genuine feeling of appreciation for the human in the weekly Literarn{ noviny, when the poem was first
qualities of the ordinary Russian soldier. published, Holan remarked:
After 1948, by one of the absurd yet tragic ironies in The years of writing A Night with Hamlet were the cruellest of
which recent Czechoslovak history abounds, Holan, the my life. In my desperate loneliness I was well' earthed' to receive,
author of the postwar tributes to the Soviet Union and the and survive, all the horrors of that time. But it would 'be mistaken
nation-stirring anti-fascist poems of 1938-40, was accused to think of the poem as merely an expression of those particular
by party dogmatists of decadent' formalism' and was abused, events, since I have always been concemed with man and the
or ignored, in the press. Until 1963 no further volume of human drama in general, with man's condition and unhappy lot,
his poetry was accepted for publication. By nature very which he endures at all times The question that was on my
reticent, he responded to exclusion from public life and mind was: who was Hamlet? I'm sure of one thing: for many
tragic nights he became my companion. He stepped through the
letters by withdrawing to his house in Prague on the small
wall and there he was. We talked to each other .... The conversa-
Kampa island on the Vltava; he scarcely left it for the next
tions went on ad infinitum, not always tolerant, not always friendly,
fifteen years. From this long vigil comes his finest poetry, but always passionate. Something of those talks I've caught, I
a poetry which fuses, with compelling force, personal trust, in A Night with Hamlet.
feelings of bitterness, scorn, anxiety, despair, mystification,
with social moods of oppression and fear. To his official The poem is a long, loosely connected sequence of dra-
critics he replied with saeva indignatio in his 'To the Enemy' matic dialogues, in close-textured and finely modulated free
verse, between Hamlet and the poet; there is also an entracte
(1949) :
in which Orpheus and Eurydice, saved from the under-
To be, you would have to live, world, reflect on the nature of human love. The abrupt tran-
but you will not be because you aren't alive, sitions of theme, the wild plunges of poetic thought, bizarre
and you aren't alive because you do not love, imagery, the baroque rhetoric, are characteristic of the poem
because you don't love even yourselves, let alone your as a whole. Its semi-dramatic form is not there to drama-
neighbour ... tize the inner world of the human personality and its tensions.
In 1963 the wind changed. Three volumes of his verse It is more in the tradition of Socratic dialogue - polem-
were published in that year alone, followed by three major ical encounters in which the characters wrestle with ulti-
collections, Na postupu (Advancing) and Trialog (Trialo-zue) mate questions: the nature of art and the artist, the eternal
in 1964, and Bolest {pain} in 1965. His long reflective-dramatic war between those 'drest in a little brief authority' and
poem Noc s Hamletem (A Night with Hamlet) was aho the human spirit, the meaning of death, the mystery of
published in 1964, the year of Shakespeare' s quatercentenary. being. In the poem Hamlet stands for the timeless and

II
10
indestructible spirit of man. He speaks as Renaissance and expressions. Not that Holan is a religious poet in a strict,
modem man in the same breath. theological sense. He is more conscious of and interested in
Holan's poetic world, represented in this volume mainly the enigma of God's presence in a godless and.1awless world.
by work done during 1948-56, is frequently dark, gloomy, His short poems are a kind of gnomic monologue in which
full of strange menace or mysterious presences. Death is a some concrete, often everyday, incident is evoked. Then, in
recurring motif: he sees the skull beneath the skin mocking the last line or two, the poem suddenly leaps away from the
human endeavour. Like some modern dramatists he is particular, familiar experience and shows it as a small
deeply aware of the strict limits of effective human com- fragment of the knowable in the void of the unknown. In
munication. Few other poets of our time know so intensely that sudden confrontation of the tiny known and the vast
the meaning of isolation, of being shut in by a 'wall' (his unknown, the God of Holan's world is born.
own image: see the poem, ' The wall ') of uncomprehending In his constant relating of the concrete t'b the abstract,
Authority. Hence his 'Ubi nullus ordo, sed perpetuus in his sensing of a numinous quality in the familiar features
horror': of the natural world, in his finding of analogies between
To live is terrible since you have to stay the natural and the human worlds, Holan is at times like
with the appalling reality of these years. Rilke, whom he admires and has translated into Czech.
Only the suicide thinks he can leave by the door 'Human Voice', especially the opening, is an example:
that is merely painted on the wall.
There is not the slightest sign that the Comforter will come. Stone and star do not force their music on us,
flowers are silent, things hold something back,
In me the heart of poetry bleeds. because of us, animals deny
The darker poetic moods come from a mingling of their own harmony of innocence and stealth,
the wind has always its chastity of simple gesture
personal and social impulses. Behind Holan's awareness of
and what song is only the mute birds know,
the fears, tensions and sense of alienation brought on by the
to whom you tossed an unthreshed sheaf on Christmas Eve.
condition of society lies an older, personal conviction. Man
has been driven out of Paradise and is doomed to suffer To be is enough for them and that is beyond words. But we,
his exile. The suffering is in the remembering: he strives to we are afraid not only in the dark,
recover his lost innocence. The recurring motifs of virginity even in the abundant light
lost or abused, of love frustrated, twisted, defiled, are the we do not see our neighbour
and desperate for exorcism
image of man's fallen state. But there are other recurring
cry out in terror: 'Are you there? Speak!'
motifs, particularly those of mother and child: images of
simple unsentimentalized motherly love and of the fresh Holan's verse is often difficult to understand at a first
spuntaneity of the child's world. These are Holan's primary reading and sometimes remains obscure. His formal
sources of hope and redemption. Behind them is something method partly accounts for this. In the work represented
more shadowy but distinctly felt: the presence of the divine here he has turned away from the earlier use of traditional
Spirit of which maternal love and a child's innocence are metre and poetic forms and created his own adapted free
12
13
verse. In an interview given to Literarn{ noviny in 1964, he stage the poetry reveals a highly competent control of its
said: chosen mode. In his own country, many regard him as the
outstanding living Czech poet. In 1966 he was awarded the
To write free verse meant for me a new search .. a search for international Etna- Taormina Prize for A Night with Hamlet,
the primordial meaning of words and a discovery of their inner
which has been translated, along with various selections of
semantics. By 'atonal harmony' (the term used in A Night with
Hamlet) I understand a special toneless instrumentation, a harmon- shorter verse, into Italian, French, German and Swedish.
ious disharmony. I was interested in the inner rhythm of images, IAN MILNER
their tonelessharmony, and in the casual connections and mutual
relations between words, their hidden inner tension.

And in fact his poetry has in it a good deal of verbal play


and semantic exercising. He likes to explore to the furthest
limits the expressive resources of the poetic word, arranged
in strange and startling combinations, placed in the most
unlikely context. His syntax is at times deliberately dis-
torted, ellipsis a common device, and aposiopesis a charac-
teristic ending. Like Eliot, he believes in 'dislocating the
language into meaning'. N ot, however, in the surrealist
manner of an unchecked tide of images. His free verse is
firmly knit, its structure and texture intellectually controlled,
however abrupt the shifts of imagery.
Behind the verbal craft lies the poetic vision that it ex-
presses and by which it is shaped. Here at times Holan is
obscure, perhaps consciously. He uses ambiguity at a
number of levels, to heighten his sense of modern man's
enigma. Sometimes the enigma itself seems impenetrable.
This is Holan's way of showing the strangeness of human
existence - the sudden intrusions of mystery, of the numin-
ous, of God - in a world where the devices of scientific, social
and political control over individual life are more and more
intrusive. The elliptic idiom matches the enigmatic vision.
The range and variety of Holan' s work is very impressive.
Few modern poets can show such creative development
through more than twenty volumes of verse. The style,
theme and genre constantly change and mature, but at any

14 IS
Translators' Note

The poems are arranged chronologically according to date from Without Title*
of publication and their order is the same as in the original
volumes in which they appeared. The period in which the
poems were actually written, often important for a full
understanding of mood and symbolic reference, is indicated
in footnotes.
The selection is intended to be as representative as possible
of the whole range of Holan' s work in the forties and fifties.
In view of the limited space available, it was therefore de-
cided editorially to include, along with the shorter poems,
only the opening third of A Night with Hamlet. While the
poem's total effect cannot thus be felt, the opening is self-
contained and gives a representative idea of overall method,
theme and quality.

* Published 1963: poems from 1939-42.

16
Horoscope

Early evening .... Cemetery .... And the wind sharp as


bone splinters on a butcher's block.
Rust shakes its model out of tortured form.
And above it all, above the tears of shame,
the star has almost decided to confess
why we understand simplicity only when the heart breaks,
and we are suddenly ourselves, alone and fateless.

19
No, Don't Go Yet The Hour

No, don't go yet, don't be afraid of all the excitement, This is the hour: music cannot
it's the bear opening beehives in the orchard. and the word is unwilling. The gloomy line of nothing
He'll soon be quiet. I too will hold back drawn by the breath hungrily shows
words that rush like the serpent's sperm that the whole of reality is needed
to the woman in Eden. for act to become image.

No, don't go yet, don't lower your veil. It is beginning to rain. Red fades from the dahlias.
The fuel of crocuses has lit up the meadows. The murderer washes his hands at the well.
That's what you are then, life, although you say:
- By desire, we add something. But love
remains love.

20 21
from Advancing*

* Published 1964: poems from 1943-8.


Nothing After All

Yes, it's dawn and I don't know


why the whole week I hurried
down the cold avenues to this door
where now I stand before my time.

I didn't want to force the future.


I didn't want to wake the blind man.
He'll have to open the door for me
and go back again.

25
On the Pavement Dead Man's Complaint

She's old and hobbles here every day I was allowed to return a while to my people.
On home groood
to sell papers.
I recognized the boat-house
Tired and beyond it
she flops on her boodle of extras and soon came to the village.
and falls asleep. The wind slid into the willow's sleeves.
It was Sooday, the family were sitting in the orchard.
Passers by
are so used to it they don't see her- My sister was taking the milk to the cellar.
It didn't occur to me Iwould scare them.
and she, mysterious and mum as a sibyl,
But since they didn't believe it was really me
conceals what she should offer.
I shouldn't have said I was alive.
Everything vanished in thin air
amidst the cries of violets and pansies .
and in front of me crumbled the webbed landscape,
wild poppy, moonlight
and alarm-clock on the cemetery wall.

26
Building the Tower of Babel Death

You were working off your sentence as a hodman. You drove it out of you many years ago,
From dawn grimace to evening grin the work closed the place, tried to forget it all.
was like winter earth to a gravedigger. You knew it wasn't in music and so you sang
Long ago it had knocked the wind out of us you knew it wasn't in silence and so you were quiet
and hope of escape was no more than . you knew it wasn't in solitude and so you were alone.
a gob of spittle trodden by a bare foot. But what could have happened today
The transience of anything spiritual was so frightening to ~are you like one who in the night suddenly sees
that many of us would have gladly believed a beam of light under the door of the next room
in the immortality of the flesh. where no one has lived for years?
We began to meet our doubles

As for you .... But no!


It was enough for that woman of Babylon
to walk across the high asphalt rampart
and the whole vast inhuman pile
meant for eternity
suddenly seemed to you rather brash.

The ruins were so immediate


they were like the certainty of love.

29
In a Village Cemetery by the Today There Is . . .
Suicides' Wall

Today there is deep in you a not long dried-up spring,


Here where the corn-cockle kisses the photo of the dead though how quickly it fills with tears.
and the tombstone nun has the worn movement of marble Today there is deep in you a not long abandoned airfield,
in the cackling of geese ... ah yes, here though how quickly it's overgrown.
everything nods the same approval that man was not created You'll have to go on foot now, your spring of grief within.
but ready-made. Things are also ready-made. But you stand frozen
Man and things made at the persuasion of the dead! while in front of you
Things wait. Man forebodes. cockroaches cross the street
Things importune. He resists. moving from butcher to baker.
Things age and outlive their time. He is immortal
and perishes.
Things are desolate and he is alone,
and is not alone only when
his life turns against itself ...

31 30
Eodem anno pons ruptus est Encounter V

Joy! Stopped by a woman at the gates of an unknown town,


There is joy, there really is. I asked her: Let me pass, 1'm only gomg in
And he felt it not as something merciless and out, and in and out again,
which rushes on us because like any man I'm afraid of the dark.
and puts out our unguarded tre
nor as a vertigo which in the double light of irony But she said to me:
brings us a bottle and shoes to make us dance - I did leave the light on !
no, what he felt was a quiet, simple, unfounded joy,
given rather than granted for an hour,
the joy of a man walking over a bridge
who will go on singing for ever ...
But it was enough for the wind to toss a withered leaf
at his feet
and the bridge was overloaded.

33
She Asked You Passion Week

A girl asked you: What is poetry? Am I really alone again, loving a little
You wanted to say to her : You are too, ah yes, you are, and keeping silent a little, suffering a little
and that'in fear and wonder, and thinking myself free
which prove the miracle, because I've never fulfilled my fate?
I'm jealous of your beauty's ripeness,
and because Ican't kiss you nor sleep with you, Don't I understand that a man gives
and because I have nothing and whoever has nothing to give only because he was left short of something?
must sing ... Was I so full of those proud colours
that tease the empty light until it fades them?
But you didn't say it, you were silent
and she didn't hear the song. Even art, where feeling serves the pulses
as the type-setter his lamp,
has left me for my double .
and is somewhere lowering my stocks, the better off
the more my barren husks
deserve trampling.

Outside it is raining, just the time


the wolf goes after the swan,
while from the paranoiac river resounds
the roar of floating logs,
coffms for us all.

34
35
Smiles Human Voice

There are many smiles. Stone and star do not force their music on us,
But I am thin,king of the most difficult, flowers are silent, things hold something back,
the simplest smile. because of us, animals deny
It is deep-set, cut their own harmony of innocence and stealth,
on every side by the vinegrower's blade of time, the wind has always its chastity of simple gesture
a smile that needs just one more wrinkle and what song is only the mute birds know,
to unravel everything and be ready for God's full name. to whom you tossed an unthreshed sheaf on Christmas Eve.
A smile like that stays on the face
somewhat longer than the joy from which it came _ To be is enough for them and that is beyond words: But we,
or it's the smile that goes before the joy 'we are afraid not only in the dark,
and disappears even in the abundant light
leaving the whole face to joy alone. we do not see our neighbour
and desperate for exorcism
cry out in terror: 'Are you there? Speak!'

37
In the Kitchen

You haven't been here for almost a year.


You were afraid to come in.
I
I
The Child

A child with its ear to the rails


is listening for the train.

I
And when you did, the emptiness once so entreating
Lost in the omnipresent music
and then spurned took its revenge,
it cares little
wilfully demanding you atone
whether the train is coming or going away ...
for your presence with your presence.
But you were always expecting someone,
Everything here disgraces you:
always parting from someone,
linoleum, kindling, dead flies,
until you found yourself and are no longer anywhere.
bread mould, the brackish vinegar of cracked plaster,
the sorrel of stains and the tan of taut air,
the sputter of spiders lurking in corners
and, underneath it all, the silence
where the moon shines only in day-time.
But in the middle of all this you suddenly see
(with the finality of a lifetime,
cruel, ordinary, mysterious)
a coffee-cup stained
by the lips of the girl who left you.

39
Bequest October

What poets leave behind The crystal air excludes


has always something in it hurt by time, sin, exile. any kind olikeness. Even our doubles
The truest of them, refuse to give their ghostly evidence that we are alive.
the least known, quietest and most loving Invisibility grows so frantic
doesn't force anything on you: neither by his image, that we simply close our eyes.
scorn nor solace, least of all by love; Good wine needs no bush. Art neither.
Present, he is absent. And Picasso
making a snowman well understood
that the immortality of art
is in time, sin, exile,
which the sun must redeem
in tears, springs, river, sea, and nothingness.

40 41.
Presentiment Mother

One December night you filled your glass with wine Have you ever watched your old mother
and went to the next room for a book. making up the bed for you,
When you returned the glass was half-full. how,he pulls, straightens, tucks in and smoothes the sheet
You were afraid and asked in a cracked, mad voice so you won't feel a single wrinkle?
who could have drunk it since you live alone Her breathing, the motion of her hands and palms
shut in by stone walls and wild thorn are so loving
and amidst such inhumanity that in the past they are still putting out the fire in Persepolis
that long ago you drove away statue and chimera and ghost. and at this moment calming some future storm
off the China coast or in unknown seas.

42 43
Sti 11 Life by a Lake Night After Night

Yes, everything is here. Everything perfect Only a virgin can enter by a closed door
and in place, quiet, luminous, her own bedroom
there is wisdom dusted offby man, bread and books, in which everything that is called assurance
no, not even a hair to blur your pen has long smelt of masturbation's sheets,
and you won't have to wipe it on your sleeve, of violence, of spittle in a well or wreath of resin
you know well the wine-cellar stores only wine, flung voluntarily on the tower of man.
the elements are here, wind, stars, storm - If he is a poet, all will be ruined,
and yet you are thinking up the names of sailing ships, if a murderer, then nakedness will reign here
eager for flight. and there will be an applauder, an applauder
hired from the marble quarries of Aeschylus.
Before you dream them, maybe sooner,
you will really run away, like that monk
who left Olympus because
he didn't find a goddess there.

44 45
Rope ... Yes or No?

Romeo's rope ladder! Vie always look for the mean. But, as a point,
How lightly it sways in the evening wind, it is blind. Seeking our heart
subtly hiding its hemp soul. we seek blindness .... And blind for a long time
Who went down it understands man's greatness, we become only touch.
which unless dishonoured here wouldn't be complete. Touch which apologetically affirms
there will always be rich and poor,
And whoever climbs it 'not because the body is satisfied or hungry
lives a passion pure-blooded and young enough but because every human soul is different ...
to expect an echo, Meanwhile it is mere touch
but too divine that unerringly gropes
not to perish in its own fire. through the diverging alleys of the slave-market.

47
Stay Listening to a Record

Stay with me, don't leave me, . Only today somewhere or other they are plucking the
my life is so empty pheasant
that only you can stop me, proudly humble, meant for King Sargon's'table.
from asking further questions. Only today the double quarter-tone oflong extinct birds
lives in the music of barbaric dances.
Stay with me, don't leave me, Only today the common quinsy of rock drawings
have pity on my impatience finds animal glory in the throat of opera.
which, scrawled in a prison.,..ship's log, Only today tantalum or bezoar
will outlast eternity. show up in the underbelly of an ancient statue.

Stay with me, don't leave me, Nothing returns from the other world. Everything is here.
you don't know anger nor will your anger last- But even the spirit within us
and where would you go, how would you feel must always be entering.
when you are over it ? Wait a little, wait,
wait at least until
the postman comes with letters only for you!

49
from Trialogue*

* Published 1964: poems froin 1949-55.


The Wall

Why is your flight so weighed with cares,


why does the journey pall?
I have been speaking fifteen years
.to a wall

and Ihave dragged the wall here


out of my own hell
so that it can now
tell you all .
ZlJune 1963

53
To the Enemy why a mirror mists over when looked into by a
woman in menses,
and from love oflife poets don't ask
why wine moves in the casks
I have had enough of your baseness and if! haven't killed when she passes by ...
myself
it is only that my life is not my own And I have had enough of your impudence
and I still love someone because I love myself which thrusts into everything it wants to possess,
You may laugh, but only the eagle attacks an eagle and yet does not know how to embrace.
and Achilles alone can pity the wounded Hector. But disaster is on the way
To be is not easy .... To be a poet and a man something you never could have dreamt of
means to be a wood without the trees because you do not dream,
and to see.... The scientist observes. what God conceived, He wants to be full of feeling,
Science can only rummage after the truth: disaster is on the way, children and drunkards know it,
by inches, not wings! And what for? only from love could joy come,
Simple enough, and I've said it before: from love that was not passion
science is in the probable, poetry in parable, only from love could happiness come,
the big cerebral hemisphere from happiness that was not passion,
rejects a great poem by asking for sugar ... children and drunkards know it ...
The cock shrinks from rain but that's another story, To be, you would have to live,
it's evening, you would say: sexually ripe, but you will not be because you aren't alive,
and the lady has such firm breasts and you aren't alive because you do not love,
you could easily break because you do not love even yourselves, let alone your
a pair of brandy glasses on them, but that's another neighbour.
story. And I have had enough of your coarseness,
And imagine a lighthouse on a ship, and if! haven't killed myself it is only
a floating lighthouse: but that's quite a different story. that my life is not my own
And your whole development from stem of man and I still love someone because I love myself ...
to lichen spawn: but that's quite a different story. You may laugh, but only the she-eagle attacks an eagle
That cloud's going to vomit but you can't even belch, and only Brises' daughter the wounded Achilles.
you are not able to be, not even To be is not easy .... Shitting is easy ...
the snake's scales can choke you, <_ 28 September 1949*
what God conceived, He wants to be full of feeling,
children and drunkards know it,
*28 September is the name-day of St Wenceslas, patron saint of
but they aren't rude enough to question Bohemia and traditional symbol of Czech national feeling.

54 55
Today Is Not the Time The Last

Today is not the time for songs of the triple rose. The last leaf trembles on the plane-tree
You pledge your girl undying love for it knows well that without shaking there is no firmness.
and soon after say you're sorry I tremble, God, because I feel
that the wedding-dress hasn't come, I shall soon die and should be firm.
and instead of the ring you hand her From every tree falls the last leaf
poisoned gloves. for it is not without faith in the earth.
From every man falls the last pretence
We visit neither hospital nor funeral. for the mortuary slab is utterly simple.
The leafhas no need to ask you, God, for anything -

You made it grow and it has not spoilt Your hand.


But I ...

57
Always Mi Lascio-

Not that I wouldn't like to live, but life I learnt tonight from a book on astronomy
is such a liar that certain stars are the oldest
that even ifI were right and near to extinction .... Grateful for the news
I would have to look for truth in death ... I opened the window
and looked for the youngest star .... But I could see
And that's what I'm doing. only clouds when someone's mean laugh
(like the wind howling in a crematorium chimney)
drove me to find
a star in interstellar space
as dawn was breaking ...

o my love, now shall we love and not despair,


how be desperate and wise at the same time?

59
from A Night with Hamlet*

*Published 1964: written 1949-56 and 1962.


Dedicated to VladimirJustL
Menippus
I can see only bones and bare skulls; most of them look
exactly alike.

Hermes
That's what the poets have admired, the bones. And only
you don't seem to think much of them.

Menippus
Well, then show me Helen; I'll never be able to make her
out myself

Hermes
This skull is Helen.
Lucian

On the way from nature to being


walls are not really kind,
walls soaked with the urine of talents, walls running with the
spittle
of eunuchs in revolt against the spirit, walls no smaller
for not yet bein g born,
walls that enclose the ripened fruit ..

The supple ripeness of Shakespeare


invites licence. Its meaning,
which like amazement should be
festive, with the decline of the times,
(in face of the possible signs of his absence)
becomes a supercharge levied on every apartment

63
into which a director has rudely shoved his way. a pain little enough to be easily hidden
Fraud alone is certainty here. And the spectator, in a hollow tooth .
crawling out before his time like St George's dragon,
It doesn't matter
basks in the bile of the critics ... whether what we heard was the sucked saliva
And those who dare to map desire running from sleeping crickets' mouths,
are at their ease, though their bad temper builders of Inidnight bridges,
shows that the brute is always with us .. creators who made themselves double tombs,
Nature is a sign or phantoms whose wages is prophecy.
which, if not mute, Only art made no excuses
denies itself. And the male of the species, And' also life insisted,
that opener, feels dumb simply because , insisted dangerously that we would survive,
the spirit always moves forward though we might really wish to die ...
while everything closes behind it ..
There was no refuge .... Nowhere, not even in the
unconscious ....
And he was like that ... Hamlet! But he was there, Hamlet, who like a Mozart-tippler
He had an arm missing and evening 6verturned the Alps in order to stand a bottle shakily
rolled through the empty sleeve of his coat. on the creaking stairs of the fear of death,
as through a blind man's sex nipped by mUSIC.
so locked in himself that all immortality
Nature merged our contempt for the town could fit inside him ...
with the rock urine of mosses uprooted '
And it is true that in his presence
at the golden summit of power . .' the knife raised above a sheep
and waited for the caterpillar of thevme to change roto a
would not cut
butterfly, and the melted pewter of old baptismal fonts
but waited in vain, returned to its primal form.
for he despised wine from the day Anxiety endures. He got in the way of eternity
he was driven by thirst to open a horse's artery
and had to heal the wound. He was in the grave of the father
and drink the blood ...
and had to be the child of the sons .... He was
So he made up his mind to admit the jinn
face to face with the holy spirit of music
and exclude the apparently unrevealed mysteries,
. and had to live for the takings of a whore
and caught between himself and himself
or the price of a dog.
, to plead for the abyss.
Afterwards he spoke only from its depths Oh, not that he knew everything, for he well understood
even when talking of a certain saint that when egoism overeats
who no long~r had anything except the pain it doesn't throw up but digests and starts again -
of remembering an ancient love, not that he was wise, like a single wooden pillar
among columns of stone - once only the loosing of contracted ties and liberation
not that he trembled like an aspen facing and so only once the essence of art,
that ancient floor painted with menstrual blood - only for once everything against the prison,
not that he was a miser, thinking of final things unless God Himself should wish to build a house
and living in King Atreus' tomb on this earth ...
where the treasury led straight to the charnel-house -
not that it mattered to him A green hawthorn leaned over the wall
whether Alexander the Great's crooked neck scattering on the road the buds of its curiosity.
had straightened out anything in history - The window opened the wind, bringing a draught:
no, no, but I always see his grimace Your deeds are many and yet none,
at those for whom any mystery but to do and to be is the envy of everyone!
is a void into which Night smoked history, ate the fried wings
they hurl all the fury of the castrated ... cut from Mercury's ankles,
and drank it down
He who gives is still a miser ...
with the sweat ofSt Tragedy's organist ....
But we who do not believe are always expecting
Only when you make your peace with death,' said Hamlet,
something, will you understand that everything under the sun is really
and maybe people always expect something
new ....
because they have no faith .... They are enlightened
Our body is not a canvas hangar
but don't give light .... They are thin-blooded
for cutting into strips ...
yet for them nothing exists unless blood is shed,
But our subconscious plays tricks .... Even if we give
they are damned though not yet excommunicated,
alms, it is we who profit!
they are curious but haven't found the mirror
So it is when we make love in error .... Yet no!
in which Helen-Helen
The groping sex of human beings means only
looked at herself from below-from below,
to have the relation without the man .... And yet
and they are so deaf they would like to hear
love's liver is found in sin.
Chrises voice on a disc.
The tensing of the body reminds you of
Meanwhile everything, everything here the profaning and chastisement of the spirit ..
is a miracle only once: Even in the presence of the sleeping we are not at ease
only once Abel's blood for we do not know where they will halt,
which was to destroy all wars, while we are stuck in our tracks ...
only once the irrecoverable, the unconscious of chi~dhood, Consider how heavy a cat suddenly becomes
only once youth and only once song, when dead, while some man
only once love, in the same breath lost, will spend the whole day shooting sparrows!
only for once everything against heredity and custom, Yes, there is the shame of a man and the shame of a woman.

66
A man cannot bear to look at cotton-wool. Have a drink, Hamlet! I said. Doyou want it along with
And woman? No sooner born in the dry season, the oven, soul of the farm,
she is already flattering the rains .. .' or with the passion of the blood's cardinal points?
But he didn't take it badly and said: 'Po-pa!'
In a moment Hamlet added: 'Children are never satisfied What's that? I asked and he replied:
with an answer .... 'They talk that way in Tibet!'
They will play with a cupboard full of secrets and went on: 'Virgins, ah yes, they know
and finally carry off the key within themselves. when a tree is unwell! ... But Ihave known convicts.
Or they are ill and secretly open the letters For some of them it's enough to imagine
of an imprisoned poet who used to huge backsides, huge only because
pay for his own little room simply because the leaden memory of the same crime
the letter was opened by them. . . . forces them to squat without legs,
Or when ill they see in their dreams a pIllar of fire unless they are swollen from all the beatings,
and cry: It's a bough, a vein of God! since they smell of tar ....
Or in illness cannot free their minds "There was no tram!" said the woman. And the man
of the unending handwork of women replied: "It's worse when a ship is late,
which aims only at keeping them warm . you, I mean, who like a ship
and would weave a man into its pattern or else seIze up . leave in you under you a continuous line .. ."
Or they are well! Every moment Yes .... Whereas virgins, yes,
hands reach for the slices of bread ... they know when a tree is unwell .... And the cloth
And when they run out of the barn of their 'innocence
they may trample on the last grain oflast year's harvest always covers the niale graftings,
so that soon they will be more temptc;d . even if their stockings are made from the hair of whores ...
to crown the skull of fire with a sheaf s golden Wig. Freedom, you know, is always kin
They are as full oflife as a horse to voluntary poverty .. .'
that doesn't feel its rider a stranger
but its own thought .... Rejoicing, shouting, Night overlapped night .... It bowed to the earth
they have been a year together wi~hout rc;grets, . or became a tomb for everything
they have a sure remedy for anything that s not a nuracle - the living and the dead were doing ...
all stains are only mud-stains Maybe the living felt shy and were insolent ..
on a new dress and can soon be washed off ... And the dead, envious, not deliberately
Children! They have found the true names, we have only to but from heredity or ~engefulness.
pronounce them!' ,- I understood when Hamlet said, not knowing my thoughts:
I interrupted and told him he looked like 'What only surrounds us now
a mill-stone quarry.
. one day will bury us ...

68
Once I was present .at a fire .. and are not afraid to enter a library ...
One of countless flames was enough for me to notice While hunting white falcon I have felt rhythm,
that the whole hand of a fish-pond keeper who was there before the tables of Moses, movement,
had only a single joint by the Chinese tombs, the symphony of rhythm,
and to make me think of the bony sculpture and, among the Ainus, gods, near, far, light and heavy ..
of nothing upon nothing ... Besides, at the moment
The hair of a hanged man you are expecting guests
is more sensitive when silky on the spine and they are already here since they've come before their
and comes no closer to being time ...
than to the hairs of knowledge. Yes, to see each other and talk together
But still more spacious and feel a warm trust
for the shivering quinine of Elsinore and heartbeat true as Rembrandt's needles,
was the sound of Ophelia cutting her toe-nails though each of us is different from the other
You know .. .' (for that is what the soul does),
No, I don't know, I said .... But right now and yet not to catch the serpent by another's hand.
I'm expecting guests, I added, annoyed A jet engine is not for the poet ...
that h.e plainly liked his own misfortune .. And as a tree remains a tree while it bears some fruit
that ripens too soon
Again he was not offended and went on: and some at the right time and some still later -
'Querer la propria desdicha .... But what no, one cannot hurry with words
moves a mother for we do not nor have we come
would shatter argosies on the open sea ... from the pitiable right of mankind
Besides .... If there is no God, to be human for man's sake!
no angels and nothing after death, Effective love, you know? .. The everyday is the
why don't the worshippers of nothingness miraculous ...
bow down just to them,
the non-existent? The greater the poem, the greater the poet,
I had this feeling once 'and not the contrary!' he added,
while hunting white falcon .... It also rises , And you are already a great poet if you ask yourself with
from Chinese tombs .... And the tables of Moses whom you are to be lost ...
say the same .... But from an inverted humility Yes, art as something that stops a swollen head ...
or pride that is not yet clear - I tell you, art is a lament,
for the bellows are only now being stitched up - something for somebody, nothing for everyone,
we would rather kiss a greyhound between the eyes and a for simply by hoping you are already in the future ...
horse on the hoof, There is always something that outstrips us, for even love

71
7
is only part of our certitude ... Atonal harmony . but what is work? To befaithful to one's lot, unselfishly,
And pain as punishment or to sell indulgences
for being a fugitive ... or become a zealous stoker in a crematorium,
Or is it that human aid, stick a thermometer in the rectum of war
which might have helped, or have to sing at the vintage
calls upon the aid of God? to prove you don't eat grapes,
I don't know, but from the form of some people I have examine a horse's teeth or like an executioner
recognized rip out the nostrils of the condemned,
the true proportions of an octopus . .' be corroded by vinegar and bile and take revenge on others
or burn off a woman's right breast
The wind wrangled in the chimney .... And in some grove
to make her an archer,
ruffled the hair on a fallow-deer's penis ..
to be the seed of fate in history's womb
And somewhere in history it chased Raleigh's drunken
or the feeling that is condemned to forced labour
galleons
under the grey Siberia of old heads -
only to rip them apart,
or on penalty of death to ftle off your fetters
as your mother once impatiently
and rather force your eyes out
tore her sleeves listening to Wagner ..
than look at the horrors of today,
But you can't drive out the soul by drinking, like a gopher
and yet still hear the singers
from its hole,
dead long ago, but free? ...
for even if you think of it as so full-bosomed
that you say: what reserves! - you are still a being,
Composition's net at best gathers in the ornamental
ftxed in transitory form by the winged hate
I'm not indifferent to one little step or fall
of man and woman.
of a child in the nettles .... Ifhis mother tells him:
'Salamander in the ftre !' Hamlet broke in. Go and get some rum for the tea,
And then frying the seed of the Word on the melted offhe goes, repeating: rum for the tea, rum for the tea,
bacon of his tongue, hissed: and ends up whispering: heaven for me* ...
'What a poet writes, an angel or demon does ... No, no, I'm not indifferent to the single fall
Thus dreams revenge themselves on uninterrupted of a child .... Yet evil always rises
consciousness! up humanity's spine, spattered with blood
I am always looking for a free canteen like a dentist's staircase .... Ancient
where the little window would not be that and weary, at each step it recoils in disgust,
of a prison cell through which yet rises again and again to the brain of pride,
the prisoner is watched, for after so many attempts
the peephole called the judas ..
"He that will not work shall not eat/" True, *In the Czech there is a jingle: 'rum do caje, Cum do clje'.

72 73
by saints and poets,
after so many attempts by saints and poets to switch off the
current -
it believes only in the moment of harmony
when there is a short circuit from_Pain*
between heaven and hell.
But of course .... We can also wait
until something bursts and love falls on us.
Maybe our hope is in patience
and waiting. Imagine
life's terminus ...
An old man stands there, cowering
like words in the rain.
"I'm 'ere," he says, "waitin' for a gent
'0 promised me a room, said it'd be unfurnished -
wouldn't worry me a bit -"
It was raining. And the old man's trust
was so blind or so openhanded
that it saw a snug future for him
and only the passers-by understood
that someone had taken him for a ride
under the mezzo rilievo of the moon .... But you know
how it is:
suddenly nothing, absolutely nothing,
absolutely nothing facing us
like the moment when it seems
the future is behind us.
Lovers should be gay!
The universe, though as they say finite,
is also unlimited .... A man is suddenly sick at heart,
a woman cold, instead of killing each other
they come together, grateful
once again to see something of their fate,
though it leads with shameless precision
to the poorhouse.' *Published 1965: pOems from 1949-55.

74
Daybreak

It is the hour when the priest goes to mass


, up the devil's back.
It is the hour when the heavy bag of dawn
is zipped up the human spine.
It is the hour of frost and no sun
yet the stone is warm
because it moves.
It is the hour when the lake freezes round its shores
and man in his heart.
It is the hour when dreams are nothing more
than fleas nipping the skin of Marsyas.
It is the hour when trees ripped by the deer
bind their wounds with resin.
It is the hour when elves pick up
the splintered words of time.
It is the hour when merely for love
one dares descend the stalagmite cave of tears
which held back in secret worked their hidden will.
It is the hour when you have to write a poem
and say it differently, quite differently.

77
Meeting in a Lift Deep in thf!Night

We stepped into the lift. The two of us, alone. 'How not to be!' you ask yourself and in the end say it
We looked at each other and that was all. aloud ...
Two lives, a moment, fullness, bliss. But tree and stone are silent
At the fifth floor she got out and I went on up though each is born of the word and therefore dumb
knowing I would never see her again, since the word is afraid of what it has become.
that it was a meeting once and for all, But names they still have. Names: pine,
that if! followed her I would be like a dead man in her maple, aspen .... And names: feldspar,
tracks basalt, phonolite, love. Beautiful names,
and that if she came back to me afraid only of what they have become.
it would only be from the other world.

79
Reminiscence I Early Spring

The sun set on the dung-heap Light comes from a low bank of cloud.
like an office lamp The snow is moving out.
~at before it goes out lights up Air sleeks itself in the willows.
a wizened acacia in the street below. Earth remembers. Springs are aware.
A girl stood by the fountain in the square. From love oflife the crow
Beautiful. I talked to her. flies without a sound
She seemed almost grateful, every word of mine and the seed is wordless ...
invited her not to be only of this world,
she knew nothing, not even that nakednesS But not everything silent is dumb.
can be so clad That cave on the left of the landscape is very quiet.
that only a dress uncovers it, And if it quickly fills with soldiers
she laughed, played with her ring, coughed a little. Some big mouth has been at work.
Her ordinariness was so mysterious that it disappeared Homer before the belly of the Trojan horse
and she had to be kissed to become more mysterious.
But when I asked her later
the way to the nearest village
she pointed in the wrong direction.

Presence isn't only present tense!

81 80
Snow How?

It began to snow at midnight. And certainly How to live? How be simple and literal?
the kitchen is the best place to sit, I was always looking for a word
even the kitchen of the sleepless. that had been spoken only once,
It's warm there, you cook yourself something, drink wine or a word that had not been spoken at all.
and look out of the window at your friend eternity. I should have looked for ordinary words.
Why care whether birth and death are merely points
when life is not a straight line. Nothing can be added
Why torment yourself eyeing the calendar even to unconsecrated wine.
and wondering what is at stake.
Why confess you don't have the money
to buy Saskia shoes?
And why brag
that you suffer more than others.

If there were no silence here


the snow would have dreamed it up.
You are alone.
Spare the gestures. Nothing for show.

82
Once More When It Rains on Sunday

Even though a friend often failed to understand my verses When it rains on Sunday and you are alone,
(there are beings who cannot kill open to the world but no thief comes
for all their wanting) and neither drunkard nor enemy knocks at the door,
though in despair and desolate when it rains on Sunday and you're deserted
(some statues were so appalled and can't imagine living without the body
by the sins of men that they turned to wood) or not living since you have it,
though suicide alone looked my way, when it rains on Sunday and you're on your own,
Ialways had the same feeling: to become nothing, don't think of chatting with yourself.
and yet to destroy that nothingness! Then it's an angel who knows, and only what's above,
then it's a devil who knows, and only what's below.
Once more Iwas in love ..
A book is in the holding, a poem in release.

8S
After St Martin's Day I Verses

The first snow fell at dawn. Young and coy, It is the time when the cabbage is served with wrath
merely a promise and token, and the calf with hate,
a phantom to prove how beauty passes. it is the time when death draws wine from nightshade,
And before mortals it is the time when the blinder you are the more you stare,
aware of its presence it is the time when field boundaries are ploughed up,
confessed, if only with half-open eyes, it is the time when the hot tear knows
the fever of their desire - that it cries alone,
the thirsty earth grew impatient and the thaw began. it is the time when the wolf grabs letter and book,
But by then it is the time when the searchlight is on the spirit,
you knew from several footprints it is the time when you cannot love your own unhappiness
that some walk, others mark time. because it is everyone's.

86
Non cum Platone Reminiscence II

Her beauty destroys my love, To Franti!ek Tichy


for in destroying illusion she destroys reality.
After hours of searching everywhere in vain
His love destroys my beauty, for pimpernel, we came out of the wood
for since Iwas given a mask I want a curtain too. and halted at high noon in the heather.
The air was baked like a sheet of tin. We looked
Heavy dawn .... Village at the slope on the other side, thickly grown
where they have eaten all the cocks. with bushes and trees. They were rigid, like us.
Iwas about to ask something
when in the unmoving mass
of frozen enchantment a single tree
in a single spot
suddenly began to tremble
like a quarter-tone, yet soundless.
You would have said it was from careless joy,
the spirit of adventure.
But the tree began to rustle
like the rustle of silver turning black.
Then it began to quiver
like the skirt of a woman who touches
a man's clothes while reading a book in an asylum.
And then the tree began to shake and sway
as if shaken and swayed by someone
staring into the dark-eyed depths oflove -
and Ifelt I was meant to die that moment ..

'non 'btea fi"d


ral , ' my f:at her sal"d'"
, It ,s an aspen. ,
But I still remember how he paled
when we came there later on
and saw beneath the tree an.empty chair.

88
Autumn II After St Martin's Day II

Autumn twilight in the country, It was some time after Martinmas.


twilight that makes friends. I was walking across the Gahatagat
But over the fields a couple came into view plateau. I was in the sort of mood
who kept asking the way when I didn't know which day it was.
since a farmer had shown them his whip. But the snow had been falling and falling. It covered
- 'I love you because -' the man was telling everything.
the woman the old old story. And at one moment the wind blew so sharply
'r remember,' the woman said, I lowered my head
'how they used to say whoever and suddenly saw with shrinking heart
slept under a yew would die .. , always a step ahead of me
Why don't we go on a bit further?' a fresh footprint.

The wild geese are on the wing. There wasn't a living soul around.
The cold is cleansing the river. Who was it there in front of me?
The nixie's gone to warm up in the orchard shed.
It was r walking in front of mysel

90 9I
Ubi nullus ordo, sed perpetuus horror Night Watchman's Song

To live is terrible since you have to stay Burns was right .... But I am convinced
with the appalling reality of these years. that we Catlnot imagine any woman
Only the suicide thinks he can leave by the door from reading a book, still less from reality.
that is merely painted on the wall. She is. And thanks only to her
There is not the slightest sign that the Comforter will come. men are too, very often as murderers
who sometimes share royally
In me the heart of poetry bleeds. the diamond crown of her mystery.

93
Without Title II Fourth Month

They say the Druid stones can be moved. April mist. One ray of sun
But the beauty of women, their very motion, is much more pale as a blind man's stick inches its way,
cruel. though more certain than a week ago.
Broken-spirited the poet writes it down in this world, Cold hands, warm heart.
in this world which turns a sullen ear
to distance and adventure You too have more than a feeling .... But that is all.
and eynic-eyed sells its wonder cheap .. If danger threatens, you have no defence.
Ifhappiness, you are powerless.
The proud spirit cannot be tragic.

94 95
The Pine The, Chicken

How beautiful that old white pine The doors open by themselves
on the hill of your childhood before an angel. At other times a chicken
which you revisited today. comes from the courtyard into the kitchen
Beneath it$ murmur you remember your,dead and looks round at the company with so critical an eye
and wonder when your turn will come. that they do not wait to see how it will end
Beneath its murmur you feel but quickly cross themselves in self-defence.
as if you had written your last book
and now had only to be silent and weep
for the words to grow.

What life have you had? You left the known for the
unknown.
And-your fate? It smiled on you only once
and you were not there ...

97
Death In Nothingness

Once again he is going round In nothingness larded like a fat book


like the sodden air on an incendiarist's skin about a lost lyric;
or the whiff of a nearby brewery. by an unknown poet,
I see him clearly through the line we, who sweat instead of weeping,
cut by Adam's black diamond we, who say a stone s-weats when it weeps,
in the glass of virginity. thought today of one who was drowned
while learning to swim so as not to drown ..

Meanwhile the park beyond the window, at other times so


prim,
rubbed its green nose on the sleeve of the wind
and then looked at it through the eyes of the mistletoe.

99
On a Freezing Night .Glimpsed

One night I heard a walnut-tree Glimpsed from the train, which takes shadow for truth.
crack with the frost. But she was truly beautiful
It went offlike the shrapnel and bareheaded,
at the storming of Babylon, bareheaded as if an angel
shrapnel which is exploding only now. had left his head there
and gone off with the hat.
The farmer ran out of his house, a horse from the stable,
and I found myself opening
the white book of summonses to conscience ...

We don't have a single clue


and then we are dumbfounded.

100
101
Between Lovers

Time in the mountains: jealousy, fruit of unbelie


Between the idea and the word
Time at the spring: infidelity, fruit of jealousy.
there is more than we can understand.
Time by the river: jealousy without love,
There are ideas for which no words can be found.
deaf, but gorged with sex ...
The thought lost in the eyes ofa unicorn
appears again in a dog's laugh.

103
102
Dream During an Illness

The dry depths at the borders of memory A melting icicle, a leakingtap,


fray out into hairs that reach to hell. counting drops of medicine.
Continence is shamelessly insistent. Laughter.
I have never taken men seriously, Tibet sees by water. We by tears.
says Lady Macbeth
and she inspects her hand
bloody from the murder of drunken mosquitoes.

104 lOS
Epoch The Virgin

By the images of things The party is over at which there were so many lights
we are still in time. the dark was perfect.
And he was there. She didn't mind
But today, before the sower has taken a step, ifhis feelings were wine and his thoughts
the reaper is already there. grapes.
Towards morning he left her. She sat gazing
It seems through the small hole in her dress
there will be neither dead nor living .. at Monday's naked nail.

106 107
Twelfth Night The Sparrow

T4e day of candles which lick Flying from a snowy branch a sparrow
the carp bones of Christmas Eve. rocked it slightly and so nodded
But the wooden mortar for grinding poppy-seed refusal of blind feeling.
is very beautiful
in the deep foreground of the straw wall, A little snow fell off the bough.
and beautiful this antique stillness, Before long there will be an avalanche.
and a week gone hasn't deceived time's seeming.
It's freezing and yet the tombstone is warm.
Because it moves.

108 109
Goodbye But

Once more the storm is rising from fate's black quarter. The god of song and laughter long ago
The mind feels faint, shut the doors of eternity behind him.
bemused like a body turned inside out. Since then only sometimes
Who is that dancing in the bats'-wing cloak? a dying memory echoes in us.
Who was struck dumb by the rattle of what he saw? And since then only the pain
The water in the well lures youth, a man seeks the spring. is neverlife size,
All that is over. There are words it is always larger than man
one must not speak o and yet must lodge in his heart.
You will never keep the promise you made.
The skull has dreamed your eyes.

IIO III
from At the Last Breath*

*Published 1967: poems from 1961-5.


You Can

There's room in me and more


for your grief and your blaspheming
and for your joy. No, nothing hinders
your coming in on sunny days,
not only when the storm is howling.
Here you can cry and curse
and, close to the mystery, laugh, even laugh -
and nothing will stop your leaving.
I am here, you only come and go.

IIS
Changes' Why Today?

This is our hope: that we have passed You know very well that pain is ~ot made less
the limits of the last reality. by comparing it with greater pain,
But while consciousness disappears but how is it your hands are bloody?
it is the very consciousness You haven't killed anyone,
whose constant changes you've never done that, you never
remain ... would, it's only that you're going to,
but why has it been today?

u6 II7
Don't Cry! Whq Knows?

It's getting dark, stop reading! Sun's coming out, don't cry ! So you put down your cut braids
Maybe today or yesterday or after a while and plucked eyebrows on my book
your fate and your will just because
are going to be in harmony with life, on your wedding-day you will wear one dress
even if minds are different. at the registry and another at the church,
Of course if you step beyond words though since the linen's short
you'll fall into the abyss. you'll have to do the washing every week,
Blood enough for you, little to the murderers .. while even now the bridegroom's selling the bedroom suite?
Potentiana, who knows whether tears
reveal themselves only when
nobody wants anything from them.

lIS II9
Additional Poems*

*The first two published in a periodical, 1967; the others written 1969.
Against

I would gladly tell you but I must not.


Time dances badly
in tragedy's worn-out shoes
and testifies against love.
Though the trees blossomed there was no fruit.
Living in life and existing in nothingness
whatever happens, nothing happens .
And whar augury? Call a third time?

123
We Too _You're Thinking of Children

Spring before its time. So uncertain a spring You're thinking of children, of their
that the first shoots are its own doubts. here and now, everything now,
If we are afraid the sneezing in the morgue without a thought of when
means snow and more frosts on the way, or where .... What's the good oflooking at
yourself in a mirror, .
how are we to appease the riled and stingy sun?
Heaviness of heart without freedom they ask, simply because
is only at its beginning. Something they haven't yet been in love .... Yes,
is missing in the earth's loins and navel. only children don't need a double.
We too lack much when we love:
such as love or self-forge~ting.

I2S
Joy For Himself

What you said and then Jived


So many apples and no apple-tree! But
was for the dead .... But really
now there are no more apples here.
only joy exists in time,
So much passion and no love! But
because it alone is instant.
now there are no unchristened here.
The most present. The most mortal.
Every man for himself
and we have time only for moments.
It won't last.

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