PRAGUE FLOODS, 2002
…the Germans will think the Czechs use strange chairs.
The Vltava River must be tired:
leaning back in an oversized chair
kicking its soggy feet
over the bank,
taking a break,
smoking a misty cigarette,
sipping latte-colored currents
swirling along abandoned streets,
as if humans are the only measure,
twisting around bridge pilings.
Time to move on to the next job
in the next city with more furniture
to float off, making the rounds
through living rooms and kitchens,
couches and beds to rearrange,
a sodden interior redesigner─
this a river’s exuberant
late summer decor.
In the municipal library,
the river reads too easily
the proclamations, the declarations
of communists and party hacks.
On its way to North Sea beaches,
it drops the news
of counter revolutions
and aging reactionaries.
Old manifestoes compost
with cabbage leaves
in German backyards.
Water music is heard
slipping through the Mala Strana.
When the wet score recedes
twenty-three grand pianos
are tuned to silt and followed
by a concerto
of crowbars and hammers.
How water loves to act
at the Archa Theater:
submerged avant-garde performances
punctuated by a stutter of bubbles,
as if the secret police
were still listening to each new wave.
The Old Jewish Cemetery
with its decks of stacked headstones
waits to be reshuffled
and dealt again the same losing hand,
beyond treading water,
the croupier washed away,
loan sharks still circling.
Magdelena Jelelove’s oversized chair
with the river seated comfortably
in the contemporary art museum courtyard,
destined for a garden in Leipzig,
confirming the Czech’s oddity
and their monstrous posteriors.
Walter Bargen has published thirteen collections of poetry. His recent books are Theban Traffic (2008) and Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (2009). He is the winner of the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize in 1997, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1991, and the William Rockhill Nelson Award in 2005. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).