Poems Partly in Prose

Tuesday 11 June 2013
by  NLLG

 reader, take heed!

(from a doctor’s notes)

Reader, take heed! Do not eat this book! Whoever eats this book shall have his face blow up and his skin swell up all over his body, his cornea shall turn scarlet red and his pupil dilate enormously and his eye bulge out. Whoever eats this book shall see everything double and all will go black, he shall have mad visions and dream that he sees wild men hopping up and down. Do not eat this book! One morning, seven-year-old Martin H. crept into the closet and removed lid after lid until he found this book – next thing you know, his hand was reaching out for a taste! But what is this? He turns suddenly pale, lays his head on the shelf, eyes rolling and bulging, turning delirious. And he is gone! And another time: A doctor was summoned to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. K. Imagine his horror on discovering that the man was already a corpse; his wife was shrieking and carrying on like a madwoman. Upon careful examination of the bedroom he discovered this book in a sack beneath the mattress; the man succumbed to an urge in the middle of the night and carelessly sank his teeth into it. And another time: Mrs. D. was celebrating her name day. She invited her two sisters and other relatives for lunch. Before long the feasters began to complain that they were not feeling well, they suffered dizzy spells, nausea, ringing in the ears, quaking limbs; soon added to this were cold sweats, clouded thoughts and vision, a feeling they would faint. The hastily summoned doctor prescribed tickling of the throat and rubbing with strong vinegar, but it was too late! The unheeding Mrs. D. had mixed this book into the soup! And another time: Forty-four-year-old P. B. and his wife consumed the boiled roots of this book for supper, he being of the opinion that the book was edible. At midnight the two awoke and began dashing around the dark apartment in a frenzy, cracking open their heads and disfiguring their faces with bruises. Fortunately the intensive boiling reduced the severity of the roots’ toxicity and the doctor managed to save the unfortunate souls; but they were never the same again. Reader, take heed! Do not eat this book even if cooked!


House of the Barefoot, Prague: Paseka, 2004

 i’ll say

morning gloom
slurping hacking
sleeve mouth wiping
sidelong glancing silently askance
and behold, someone’s mouth opening
anew and differently
and behold
a word escaping the larynx
scraping past the Adam’s apple
rising through the throat
sliding along the tongue
crowding past the teeth
dripping from the lip
flowing down the chin
dropping into the soup
at the last moment
just barely by a whisker by a squeak
missing becoming a grease spot
two thumbs thick
turns around and declares

that’s more or less
what i wanted to say



Or Else, Prague: Volvox Globator, 1992

 ad infinitum

Just like Yahweh,
the Polynesian god Yo
created the world by sheer force of words :
“Let there be light,” etc.

The words Yo used
became part of magic rituals,
serving to summon infertility,
impotence, senility, and

And whenever someone succumbs to anxiety,
a shaman is permitted to repeat the words
by which the world
was created.

Because re-creation is the only way
to get out of it.
Because a hole in the soul cannot be darned,
or a broken heart set in a cast.

There is only one thing to do :
re-create the world,
the same world, with the same words, but new

and hope that some stroke of fate, unforeseen
flap of wings, gust
of wind, lagging wave, or
quicker spermatozoid

will bring

serenity of the soul and a decrease in black bile.

 poem for Pavlínka Kalivodová

This poem is
for Pavlínka Kalivodová
If you don’t know
who Pavlínka Kalivodová is
this poem will
mean nothing to you
If you do know
who Pavlínka Kalivodová is
this poem will
also mean nothing to you

If you doubt
whether Pavlínka Kalivodová
try to track her down
in the phone book
in the birth registry
or elsewhere
If you do track down
Pavlínka Kalivodová
write her
a letter
to inquire
whether she is
the Pavlínka Kalivodová
from this poem

Perhaps she will answer
yes Perhaps
she will say
If the former
you won’t be certain
whether the Pavlínka Kalivodová
whom you have
tracked down
is certain
that she is
and not another
Pavlínka Kalivodová

If the latter
you won’t be certain
Pavlínka Kalivodová
is mistaken
to claim that
it is not her This poem
could be intended
for her
without her knowledge

You might also
a name
as stupid
as Pavlínka Kalivodová
could not exist
and that therefore
Pavlínka Kalivodová
does not exist

You might also think
no one could invent
a name as stupid
as Pavlínka Kalivodová
and therefore
Pavlínka Kalivodová

In neither case
will this poem
tell you
about Pavlínka Kalivodová
or anything else
as it is intended
for Pavlínka Kalivodová
and her alone

You might also think
that the fact
that it is intended
for Pavlínka Kalivodová
is a trick
and in reality
this poem is
for you
as opposed to
Pavlínka Kalivodová
But this poem
will tell you
nothing about you either
or next to nothing

You might also think
that Pavlínka Kalivodová
but not in this poem
that it is a trick
if not a pretext
the author
of the poem
to write a poem
that is not intended
for Pavlínka Kalivodová
(in spite of
what he claims)
(though she exists)
or for you
but for him
and him

In the event
that this poem
is intended
for the author
of the poem
and him alone
for Patrik Ouředník
and not
Pavlínka Kalivodová
or you
this poem
will tell you
about Pavlínka Kalivodová
next to nothing
about you
but will reveal a great deal
about the author
Patrik Ouředník
(assuming such a stupid name
even exists)

If this poem is
in fact intended
for the author Patrik Ouředník
and not
Pavlínka Kalivodová
the question arises
whether Pavlínka Kalivodová
(even if in fact
she does not exist in this poem
and this poem
is not intended
for her)
(in spite of
what the author
in the author’s real life
or whether she is merely
a pretext
or a trick
and if
Pavlínka Kalivodová
in the real life
of the author
(seeing as you
have not bothered
to track her down
to track her down
in the phone book or
in the birth registry
or elsewhere)
why the author
feels the need
to write a poem
which in spite of what
he claims
is not intended for her but is
a poem
for him
and him alone
whether it is
for example
an attempt
at formalism
or a desire
for recognition
or an inner compulsion
on the author’s part
or for ideological
or other

You may
all of these
while reading
this poem
which is not
intended for you
assuming you are not
Pavlínka Kalivodová
and assuming you



Poems Partly in Prose, Host, 8, 2003

© Patrik Ourednik
Translation © Alex Zucker