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2 poems by Joshua Calladine-Jones

the lada, the snow

Pinned to the radiator-grille was one

crimson star,

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

white heaviness,

sharp enough

to hang on air.

Black-hoodied, Anton hand-steered us on

to the trajectory

of advancing cars, downhill,

now sprinting,

arm crooked around the door, before

hopping backwards

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 —

mléko, молоко,

jablko, яблоко.

Czech and Russian

were sometimes the same, but not some

same-sounding words,

like pozor

((which in Czech

means caution!) we remembered, as we let go

of the car), while for her

that word

just means shame.

This occurred to us, running with her,

the car starting,

the word white

on the road.

in žižkov

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.


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