Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Czech Characters"

The following poems depict characters I’ve encountered while living here in Prague. There is a small story behind them, which I will tell you at the end.



Dr. Soup

I sat in an old room
With dark walls
I watched as a slight man
Walked out on stage
He was the last act
In an improv orchestra
He took his place
At a workstation
It cradled the bodies
Of cyborg octopi
Their tentacles
Blinked and curled
At their center
Was a cauldron-like turntable
The man laid his fingers
On its soup
He tapped its ripples
And brought it to life
Soon the walls were
Humming with static
It lit up my nerves
And dumped fish
Down my spine
A grinding came in
Then bloops, bleeps,
And buzzes
I felt I was
Being squished
Through the intestines
Of a robot
I looked over at the man
And saw him change
He went from cool and skinny
To red and mad
His eyes grew veins
And his hair hung in his face
He worked those fingers
Like electric chain gangs
They tweaked out sounds
That took a cheese grater
To my soul
When the act finally ended
I was hollow-eyed
And drooling
I craved another bowl


….


Conditioned

I met her at a whorehouse
Where there steps
Were wet
She was behind the bar
Playing with her phone
I climbed up on
A stool
And gave her a smile
She poured me a beer
And asked my name
“Hans,” I said.
“And you?”

The next night I came by
And she danced for me
It was her turn
To wear the lace
She fell in my lap
And crossed her legs
I tried to kiss her
“No!” she said.
“Why?”
“Because you want it!”

I took her home later
And fucked her
Her skin looked blue
In the dark
When we finished
We went to the shower
She was afraid to remove
Her towel
“What’s the problem?”
I asked
Her big eyes glistened
 “I have a condition,” she said
“A condition? What kind?”
She bowed her chin
And opened her towel
Her skin jumped out
At me like a
Frightened cat
There were lesions
And burn marks everywhere –
The handprints of a
Cruel maker
I bit my lip
And grabbed the showerhead
Maybe I could wash those things off?
When they didn’t come away
I gave up
We went back to bed
And spooned
Later that morning
I walked her to the door
I haven’t seen her since


….


The Little Bum with the Long Nails

I see him every Wednesday
On my tram ride home
He’s a bum
And his bones are so frail
He can barely stand
He sits where he can
And stares at his fingernails
They are long
And yellow
Most times people
Move away from him
His odor brings
Tears
And his scraggly beard
Sheds

One Wednesday
The tram was full
But for two seats
A pretty girl got on
And snatched one up
A moment later
We hit a stop
The doors hissed open
And the little bum
Got on
He hobbled to the free seat
And eased his joints into it
The girl looked up
From her phone call
Ježíš Maria!”
She spat
The little bum flinched
And looked down
At his nails
The girl got up
And trotted off
I thought of sitting next to
The bum
So he didn’t feel
So bad
I never did


….


I read the above poems two weeks ago at Alchemy’s open-mic. When I finished, a member of the audience approached me.

“I really like what you have read,” he said. “Do you want to know why?”

“Sure.”

“Because I am Czech. And I fink you have really capture Czech character wit doze poems.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Well, third poem not, but first and second for sure. We have great talent of music like first guy. And Czech girls are easy and sleep wif many mans like girl in second poem. According to me, it is all accurate description our national character.”

“I see. Well thanks for the compliment.”

I left and got a beer. As I sipped it, the humor of the whole scenario dawned on me. The guy in the first poem had been an Austrian. The girl in the second poem had been a Nigerian. In fact, the only actual “Czech” people I had written about – the bum and the girl who’d snubbed her nose at him – were in poem number three. And it was this poem that homeboy felt didn’t reflect the “Czech National Character.”

I don’t know what this says about the concept of a “national character.” Maybe, that in most cases it doesn’t hold much water.


....



Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

4 comments:

  1. Wow your poems are so touching, tragic and deeply human. Thank you for posting!

    ReplyDelete