Thursday, November 08, 2012

488. Prague Concerto

Snow in the wind, my thoughts
slide over to the Winter Queen, so easily
brought to mind in this unbombed
Central European city: War, having
taken its pound of flesh from the people
spared its buildings.

The Munich betrayal. Heydrich.
No wonder they feel the way they do.
Chamberlain. J’aime Berlin.

I visited you before and after.
In the summer of 1989, the border
was a nest of guns and barbed wire
with apologetic young recruits
going through your bags. In 1991,
when I came again with my family,
all of that stuff had gone.

The river, the Charles Bridge, the palace,
all of that stuff was still there.

The West betrayed you, England and France,
and condemned you to a half-century
of misery: fascists followed by communists,
and if I were Czech, I’d be angry.

Surprisingly, you are not angry. Rueful,
I think is the tone. You sure as hell
got rid of the Sudeten Germans, every
last single one of the Nazi bastards,
which in its way is a pity, when you think

Of Kafka, for example, no Sudeten farmer,
just a person who thought and wrote in German,
and most of that has been lost. Also Slovakia,
who were not much help to you during the war.
Pity the countries with no seas as shelter!

Land borders in Europe pay no attention
to the people who happen to live within them
and never really have. The Versailles Conference,
post-Great War, was supposed to change all that
and didn’t. They simply carved up Europe
and set the seeds for the next great war.

And they carved up the Arab world as well,
drawing straight lines with rulers on maps,
setting up "mandates" for France and Britain,
promising everything to everyone, including,
of course, the Jews. Which is why, Ladies & Gentleman,
we get 9/11, the problems that continue today.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Prague. The food
improves (MacDonald’s was a step up, if you can imagine!)
and the beer has always been good. It is a quaint
and lovely city with its old clock towers and cobblestones,
with its trace of the nostalgic Old World “Mitteleuropa”,
which hasn’t been seen since the 1930s. America

has a great deal going for it, or had at one stage,
but it will never never replace, with its Disney dreams,
the real and honest thing.