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The notebook of uprisings.

folded swans in the mirror, Vltava your hand on the bridge rail in a blackened city under a soot heaven holding a banner completely fashioned of hope beyond the tarred Teplice road, past cut fields, tarpaulin-covered hay ricks, petrochemical plants spewing black smoke poppies afflicted the hay fields with wounding brilliance it was Sunday the people were harvesting cauliflower then from the gardens of Terezin blank-eyed, a boy pedaled a bicycle back and forth with a naked broken doll in its basket we drove beneath the flowering chestnuts and circled the empty park at the prison gate a woman stood holding a bouquet of leeks wrapped in paper two Czech soldiers strolled through what had once been the women's compound doors swung in the wind, swallows dipped into the prison yard and rose their cries slicing into the silence without leaving a mark we walked the cold swept-clean barracks, ran our hands over gray wash basins, long trestle tables, tiered bunks we picked forget-me-nots and left them where he died somewhere here, somewhere his name carved into a wall are the words the streets, rainblack, a two-hour queue for pears, a cold hill of spent tapers where Jan Palach immolated himself the flicker of meat lines, of bridge lights in the Vltava in a child's blue leather prayer book from Terezin: V.K. 1940 hearts, a police doll wearing the star this is Hana Minka's field of flowers this is Gabi Friovit's imaginary house there are flowers growing on the roofs of the cell blocks the low bricked grass-roofed prisons the au revoir of the tunnels in starvation rooms along a war of fading blue figures a fresco of hair the blue of bread smoke on a wreath's black ribbon, the word for scaffold: popraviste the second of May 1945 a crow breaks the silence East Berlin is swept clean, its walks sheltered by oaks. there is nothing to buy. people stroll and talk, they queue at the bookstores. the Russian soldiers come into the cafe to have a look. they buy ice cream bars, a folded Berliner Morgenpost. no one knows where Brecht is buried or where Benjamin lived wie im himmel so auf erden as in heaven so on earth wer ist unser Gott? who is our God? in the fire pits of guest workers peach cans strewn through the field Madonna singing behind the black-windowed Reichstag these are the last days we cross the Danube into a world in decline: tangled lilacs, peeled walls nothing as it was darkening lindens, drunks beneath sodium lamps, the bottles belling against the cobbles on the back page of a calendar, 1938: to the courthouse to be taken away. --Vladimir's war diary the word on the empty box: important (all the boxes empty) all important) in the leather valise, a Dominican habit, altar linens, old bars of soap, the clothing of a railway conductor wrapped in issues of Rude Pravo moths for curtains, a blizzard of moths from a trunk's maw, gold attic shafts of spirit in the diary ". . . whoever it was went to prison." a window not opened in twenty two years we find her in a block of worker housing flats on a small namesti bordering a ditch, her name in the row of names: Borovska my voice in the call box "this is the granddaughter of Anna Bassarovit and the daughter of Michal" There was so much weeping, she said, but never anyone a dead woman's nightgown, a trunk of moth wings the past is not where you left it, Svetko it is ruined city spackled with grief its night, an oilcloth worn to the weave the house, still yellow stucco with pear trees she stood on the landing of disbelief in Brno as if --it was during our brief happiness these were taken-- in the newsprint, the war translucent behind us empty swallow nests, baskets of light in the eaves woven with bits of collar and sleeve and a diary open to the words: cannot remain here a tin of Christmas chocolate blue as a cabbage field Z. Borovska on the landing in Brno what has eaten these walls? wind in the mustard fields death maps rat teeth how wide would be the black lake of the war's blood? how cold how deep? we find German war maps of the High Tatras where Anna lived, and one of Brno hurrying as if there were a corpse in the armoire in the cafe across from Zivnostenska banka we are able to buy a sack of bread for the road, and poppies in the tin light we walk, our sandwiches in foil like the light along Narodni street of the kiosks the wind has eaten the faces from the angels of Chekhov's bridge as if the earth were finished with us we leave our konvalinka for the saint and white tulips for the mother of God along Leninova, unforgiving lights, soot pines and state trucks a world emptying of human belief tearing your hand from that bridge rail and examining it in isolation fragments your life not a human but a new being night terrors, a city with all its windows blank the railway stations with their yellow smoke (residue of dream world) every epoch bears its own ending within itself the legibility of dreams desires to be read like a book work would become the accomplice of longing interned in the camp of "voluntary laborers" not only the flow of thoughts, but their arrest a coal portrait of her face by a Russian deserter each a memory to himself fields of yellow rape; canola fields the white-eyed, walking dead ... there is hope, infinite hope, but not for us. this is a map drawn from memory of the specular itinerary of exile an erasure of everything destroyed yet left intact nuit blanche, your white nights awake and the white window winter-locked hours on line to fill a basket of provisions in the open air cathedral of Prague as one who, keeping still, announces herself the other night where, precisely ... from the village of the first person an event no longer remote before enduring it we will endure it this is what we have taken the ordinary world to mean footprints in clay the persistence of tracked field what was here before imperfectly erased and memory a reliquary in a wall of silence it was the end of the war, the real end, and the beginning of indifference near the black stone walls of the bridgeworks we met night after night but no one knew it yellow cinquefoil and red wind-flowers an empty concrete flood-pit grapes ripening in fog it is only today that he has disappeared altogether my memories are few and like dreams of my own life resuming the muted sound of snow falling into itself they've made a shrine in hissing rain to Jan Palach near where four men are starving themselves to death zones of refuse: that dream, and the train taking us a bell ringing in my spine they were dying between the tents, they were buried in feed sacks streets running with sweet gray sewage and where the world had been, light the table, my hand, the porcelain sink, all light the mud on the floor of the city bus the same light as the road bread scrap and clot of filth the same even rats caught in the stadium were light their tails dipping into fire with each turn of the spit the yellow teeth of their remains citrine and summer a corpse swarming with young rats breaking holes in the wall, they found nothing the homeless squatters passed through the holes into empty communist gardens and the people from the east passed from their side into a world unbearable to them a mirror of swans a gesture of regret bridgestones rippling in the Vltava your face strewn with childhood we were looking for -- we found -- a remnant of sheet music, a last note piano and corpse dust news snowing a light passing through you before the coal fire a tin of cakes as long as it takes snow to slip from the coal piles a memory barely retrieved from a fire is (the past) in its hiding place there is a weather of crystal in the high pines in Vienna a dark snow falling and in Berlin broken walks, lilac wind, Brecht's violated grave storm light, blue orchards, the heavens briefly open my heart flew to his roof we returned here after the war whose lives the war took searching by the light of radio tubes at dusk in Kafka's little house last summer a wind from Belarus brought us blue roses something was wrong with the milk yellow brooks of sewage lit the hay fields a little burnt sorrow, truck-rutted fields that someone attempted to hide this is evidence enough the train rising along the bank above the tiled roofs its windows blinded by mud and smoke in a small hotel built not on its own remains but in place of itself flutes of wind through bullet holes and the sky pitch-smoke in the wounded kitchen, Borovska begins: it was as if we'd been given to walk through a world to come so the cry is cut from its stalk in the shelter, no one spoke, and those accustomed to the shelling slept then no one slept stiff bread and blue milk near the hissing fire the child asleep in a box by the stove a woman's face in lamplight a misted woman blurring herself with soap in a stall shower a man whose name she doesn't ask is given a bed and she watches him take sleep and through the split curtain studies the street fitting a tiny comer of tissue from the window to the glassy weather of March it is still there, damaged yellow paper climbing the bell tower in winter a stairwell spiraling into an ashen snow the same bells ringing then an ash tree in the yard fifty years yellow-barked and bare leafed as when she peeled the blackout paper. from the casement for a peek at the hushed gray world of a war without end so she stood with her hopes at sail among linens and slept through her childhood in his arms more actually than if she'd been with him a blue light branching in the storm under a frayed quilt spring lilies opening in the ditch so we ran through the flowering trees with our nets open where the beetles drenched the wind with droning and the dead rose in columns of attic-light like the dead at play in fall-out shelters a war went on in place of another war father in the dead of winter digging through snow in a fatigue no sleep could relieve a blue daybook hidden in the bed with his name, Joseph the wind spreading a veil of snow over snow the hushed chill of such a wind If you ask them anything they go on telling you the same thing forever not what happened, but what may happen death understood as death the world in its worlding our hope put into question an empty city, haunted by meaning figures dead and alive whispering not truth but a need for truth when one word is many things Bratislava-Prague-Berlin 1990
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Author:Forche, Carolyn
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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