Five Odes on a Prague Pub That is Now Called Hostomická Nalévárna
1. Conversation Ode
The ghosts are talking in the walls.
They’re careful to downplay
exactly what they say,
just adding somewhat to the murmur,
making the barroom warmer
with old hearsay.
The ghosts are raging in the walls
when a lone drinker’s here
having a quiet beer.
They roar and threaten to turn violent.
Suddenly they’ll go silent
when others appear.
The ghosts are talking in the walls.
The night is cold outside
Do they know that they’ve died?
The barman doesn’t catch their order.
Beyond the wainscot border
it’s cold outside.
2. Disaster Movie Ode
Where else wait it out but here,
everything that is to come?
They have bread and they have beer,
and if needed they have rum.
We will watch the long hand tick —
thirty years will do the trick.
Some days bread will not be fresh.
Shouts will drift in from the street.
Shots perhaps. The surge and thresh
of panicked crowds swept off their feet.
Shutters can be brought down snugly
should events outside turn ugly.
Decades later we’ll come out,
eyes unused to light. Mirage:
shapes and colours strewn about,
bits of limbs and fuselage.
We’ll pause moments at the door.
Then we’ll pick up life once more.
3. Indigenous Urban Ode
The locals sit around and say
we aren’t local.
We are pinochle;
they are mariáš.
We are cricket; they
are hockey. We’re cards; they’re cash.
The pub’s our local all the same.
Does that translate?
Not so great.
But ‘regular’ is expressed
around here in a name
that joins a tree-trunk to a guest.
OK, so maybe each of us
can then agree
to be a tree.
Our leaves will fill the gloom
up to the ceiling, rus
in urbe — a forest in the room.
4. Rural Origin Ode
A clearing in the crowds of pine and oak.
A brewery in the hills for centuries.
The kegs are carted down so that townsfolk
can taste what lies beyond the city walls
and dream. In suits or skirts or overalls
they come and take a seat. A glass is brought.
They drift off while the whole world stalls,
long minutes lost in thought.
A brewery in the hills for centuries.
A clearing in the crowds of pine and oak.
For twenty solid years there’d been no peace.
The villagers were largely unconcerned.
But in the year of ’39 they learned
the enemy was near: the Swedish host
came sweeping in and briskly turned
the village to a ghost
which rose again when war had petered out
in that same spot, beneath the mountain range,
the forest’s shadow stretching miles about.
The village’s name as it was before,
which means ‘the stranger’s place’ — though local lore
won’t say if he came from the east or west.
Which means they might still hold the door
to welcome the new guest.
5. Invitation Ode
I think that heaven
might have some chairs
and battered tables, wares
worn by long use,
the joints a little loose,
so that we’ll seem to sway
whenever high winds make their way
into the blithesome crap
we talk. They’ll have, say, five good beers on tap.
it’s a good job
the old pub’s grime
that built up over time
through long regimes
was kept. The wood here gleams
with men and women’s lives
gone by — the grain they smoothed survives.
We slide into their stead
along the grooves they made, the stuff they said.
who is on call
you bid us all goodbye
before this bar
reopened. Is it too far
to get here for an evening?
Your thirst that small? Time you were leaving
Al Ain to catch your flight.
We’ll raise four glasses in this pub tonight.
Two Sentinels of Plzeň
We keep watch through the day and night
standing on this rooftop height.
We wait. We bode and we abide.
Our gaze remains steady.
The city wakes and works and sleeps
below us. Evening traffic slips
out to tower blocks on green slopes.
We are always ready.
Across the plains, four rivers come.
They find their way here through the hum
of highways, depths of forests, calm
of mountains, spans of leas,
and flow into each other here.
Their waters mix the soils, year
after year, before they steer
as one to northern seas.
They heave ore from the earth. They bring
it here and put it through coke-firing
until it flows out ductile iron —
the furnace halls lit up
all through the night. Arc lights shine
on loading bays and stockyards, a line
of hopper cars bound for the mine,
on chainlink and on scrub.
What powers of air stream through the sky?
We know. When the bombers fly
towards here to knock the town askew,
we are the first to see.
When armies cross the border
we see their movements, see the mortar
flash then seconds later murder.
Though stoics both, we sigh.
Prowess, loyalty and largesse,
good customs, cleanliness in dress,
we two knights stand for nothing less.
The highest paragons,
five floors above your works and days,
we wait for you to see the skies,
and see us too — the steady gaze,
the resting sword, the stance.
Dresden Therapy Mænad
In Dresden, somewhere in the Albertinum
there is a photograph from during the floods
when all the statues stood in one room — plenum
of marble and of plaster whose various muds
were pressed into cool flesh for centuries
and sheltered from the faster flowing moods
outside. Here are the Lares and the Furies,
here is Athena in her different forms,
all turned to fragments and forgotten stories.
And now a person who’s been through the firestorms
stands in front of you. What do you feel?
They are cold. They have lost one of their arms.
What’s to be done with one more rubble-hill
— try this for size — but make it integral?
I feel ripped open. These statues standing here
in twisting drafts of heat have sucked me in
to their events — the lifted hand, the hair
in waves swung by the torso turning on
a plinth — the moments that decide their day.
Suddenly, I feel my body parts begin
to come undone, painfully moving away
on streams of air and water, different speeds
of sediment that settle then like dew.
And here’s a Mænad, just as she explodes
with joy, her head thrown up into the void,
her arms and legs blown roughly off. She pleads
for our destruction — that is what she’s vowed.
Her marble flesh destroyer and destroyed.
This is your father, here in front of you.
There behind him, waiting, is your mother.
There is no furniture. Not much of a view.
Your father steps in closer — there’s some bother
in his gaze when he sees you. But she’s much quicker
and leaves your prostrate sister and your brother,
twisting her torso round him. Will you attack her?
Or will you take it? The therapist says ‘freeze,’
the figures turning now a little thicker
as they sag back to their identities.
A rush of wind through leaves, as in the past.
Before the woman removes your mother’s face,
see who stands where. What have you realized?
What do you feel? Say it now, at last.
What do you feel? Grief. What do you feel?
More grief, in waves, through millions of us,
features twisted freshly red and pale,
a grief no therapy could ever efface,
the bodies laid out on the river meadows,
the burnt limbs cooled by dew. There is no office
that could heal or deal with all these shadows.
They keep on coming in their thousands. They hide
on boats and buses — the widowers, the widows
and the outnumbering orphans all with their dead
close-packed inside them, who mutter, roar
and gnaw the children in the years ahead.
Who are these people milling at the door?
What do they want of us? How many more?
Your father and your mother’s flesh, like yours,
is made of gravels and alluvials
swirled by the tides and swept to river shores.
We have streamed and slid together. Feeling wells
as we pause looking in each other’s eyes,
stock-still, enclosed by heavy sandstone walls,
before we start to move again. Stone lies
in hills of rubble on street after street.
For decades people tried each one for size
against the others to get the courses straight
— their broken bones, their blood, the gradual gain —
until the work was finally complete,
and a great cathedral’s rebuilt on the plain,
its every block made integral, again.
Hannah Wilke’s Armpit Hair
Here’s Hannah Wilke’s armpit hair.
Observe its two black patches’ boast
— Playboy-model stance — that grossed
I’d say a little change for her
but grossed out gazes, men like me
who sit there gawping in a row.
Pink and plucked, a little raw,
is what they thought they’d paid to see.
Instead they get the jettish tangles,
tang of salt, the strands unsmooth,
hairy beastie peepshow booth,
feminist working the man-angles
with stick-on scars of bubble gum
placed on her torso, soliciting
their want, ‘You like? Is this your thing?
These stuck-up lips, they make you come?’
The same eyes stare out of the wreck
that cancer made of her sweet body,
full frontal, seated, all her beauty
now in the eyes that still would deck
a man for flinching where he’d lusted
oh once-upon-a-time. O tell me,
Hannah Wilke, brunette bombshell me,
— for your clear S.O.S. has lasted —
show us again the strands so loved,
before they turn to artshop lore.
O fuck with all our heads once more,
and tell us of the art you lived.
Child of Prague
O little man, imperial gewgaw, I say
you’re awesome! Millions come from everywhere to see
you lounging laid-back on an altar here in Prague
as gilded plaster rays explode in spears behind you —
incendiary device that’s been going off, mind you,
for centuries now. O small man, drop the humblebrag,
you’re awesome! You’ve got such badass boogie shoes!
Daily you put on matinées and evening shows
to teach the generations love and love and love
(if they could only learn the moves). You shuffle there
so fast beneath your sequined skirt and with such flair
that we can’t see it, though we know nothing in the Louvre
comes close to your sweet sculpted beauty. You’re divine!
Two fingers raised, you hold your right hand in a sign
suggesting calmly there’s no doubt at all we’ll win
not Churchill’s victory (your fingers are laid flush),
but one that makes a world war seem a bang and flash.
You’re telling us, ‘Stay cool. You’re good. I’ve got this one.’
And in your left hand rests a globus cruciger —
the world, a cross on top for keeping it secure.
To you it’s lighter than a toddler’s beach ball.
You roll it slightly and tides swing through the seven seas.
You tilt it now and then with grand seigneurial ease
to give the climate-change deniers a wake-up call.
The putti love you. They’re going nuts around the peace
that your small wooden body keeps there in its pose.
Their skin is silver paint. They mime a Come-All-Ye.
The church’s baroque orders, arches, architraves,
its volutes rippling seismically across the nave’s
oh-slow-paced space, all this is coming out from YOU
(all caps), from YOU! The church agrees that you are awesome,
so much so that the nuns must drink a lot of Assam
to brace themselves to work each day in your fierce presence.
They lay wide leas of flowers about your tiny feet
and sing the happiest hosannas. They gently fight
back tourist crowds who have more apps than sense.
Look at you! Cooking up miracles to beat the band.
The doctors dance about, saying they can’t understand.
You don’t hang round for the applause, your boogie shoes
are moving quicker than the videos upload.
O far-out Child of Prague, O lovely cross-dressed lad,
you’re five hundred years old and still you’re breaking news!
They love you most of all in Ireland. There you chill
across the country on every second farmhouse sill.
The night before a wedding, they take you out-of-doors
and place you underneath a tree to watch the weather.
And there you are, all comfy, nestled in the heather —
with you on guard, no rain approaches, no cloud dares.
Then there’s my aunt in Bray, sitting in the sun-room.
Last time I saw her she asked me to write this poem,
and here we are. (Hi Lorna! How’s this going so far?
A bit long, isn’t it? I’ll soon be winding up.
There’s some who’ll say I’m nothing but a cheeky pup,
but you’ll know it’s all fun, which sometimes poems are for.)
Perhaps the clinching proof you’re awesome, little man,
beyond the grandstand miracles, is that you can
bring laughs to Lorna when my efforts flag.
She loves you too. She’s asked me if I’ll send her medals
that picture you with putti, wreathes and votive petals,
and this poem too. Please take them to her, Child of Prague.
Justin Quinn(1968 v Dublinu) je irský básník, překladatel a literární kritik. Studoval na dublinské Trinity College, od roku 1994 žije v Praze. Vyučoval na Katedře anglistiky Vysoké školy pedagogické v Hradci ...Profil