the lada, the snow
Pinned to the radiator-grille was one
with its sparkle-glitter
hammer and sickle
and as we shoved, the LPG sticker
curled from the window:
the only blue mark
in a morning
schtum and leaden with the snow’s
to hang on air.
Black-hoodied, Anton hand-steered us on
to the trajectory
of advancing cars, downhill,
arm crooked around the door, before
into the driver’s seat,
as we pushed on,
we pushed on behind, half a road ahead,
half a road behind,
we pushed on
and on, on foot.
He battled the engine. Ponderous growls
from the mouthless bonnet.
And then not.
By now, the end
of the road was near: SUV coming straight
for us, we dumb-caroused
across the lane
to Anton’s twists of ignition.
We let it go. It cackled up petroleum and
failed again. We ran
after our own
clouds of breath.
We thought of something Natalie had said —
Czech and Russian
were sometimes the same, but not some
((which in Czech
means caution!) we remembered, as we let go
of the car), while for her
just means shame.
This occurred to us, running with her,
the car starting,
the word white
on the road.
Nights pass under bed-sheets, the milk
congeals by the eggs, while dogs
gasp up their mouthfuls of longing
and piss against the façades.
Then one midnight, krok za krokem,
you’ll rise for the mirror’s glass:
your finger over the lightswitch
you’ve forgotten has long-blown-out,
and in those seconds’ suspension,
is the meaning you searched for in God.
(Tak, jakému množství
nočních můr zachránil život!)
Sadness is ornate—you’ll say,
a prayer—but no one will hear you.
Waking to flies in the fruit-bowl,
and moths flickering in webs, you
listen to drills below starting up,
face-first on the rug you’d just bought.
By night, road-works gaped with vices
have that man in hi-vis weaving
through cones, crooning out by rasps.
Here, you’ll watch him from the window
strolling on by the red-dimming
tracks, to the bells and the blank
tram-portholes that pale out their light.
You’ll think for a long time, then,
you’ll think a lot and then stop.
There’ll come that slow-final feeling
that slides through each thing, but
only when these nights have all gone
will you crack the eggs on the bed-sheets,
and scream for all that you’ve lost.
Joshua Calladine-Jones is a poet and the literary-critic-in-residence at Festival
spisovatelů Praha. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Stinging Fly, 3:AM,
The Anarchist Library, Minor Literature[s], The Hong Kong Review of Books, and
Literární.cz. His pamphlet Constructions [Konstrukce] was published by tall-lighthouse
in 2021, and Reconstructions [Rekonstrukce], will be published in 2022.