new zealand electronic poetry centre


Murray Edmond

Fugacity 05
Online Poetry Anthology


My Return to Czechoslovakia

This is my return to Czechoslovakia.
Twice in my life I have felt utterly
foreign, staying in a place.
The first was in Prague.
I felt the need to leave behind me
a book I had written myself
– a present for the people I stayed with.
It was as though time stopped
and I needed to rest, and in their house
I rested. At night I rested
and listened to the one cold water tap
running all night in Prague, 
running on and on like silence.
By day they took me by the hand
and showed me the churches, the palace,
the cathedral with the tiny window
up high where Kafka wrote and looked down
and saw the drama of K. and the priest.
They took me in hand and led me
down that long side street by the Vlatva
to a place where on a brick
at the corner of a building
at the height of my eye
some one had scratched the name Dubcek.
I needed to leave something complete
that would stay there,
that would live its own life there.
This is my return to Czechoslovakia.

The second place I left a book behind me
was Christchurch, night of a lunar eclipse,
and I sat alone in the middle of a garden
perched on a chair, a singular point
in the whole of the Canterbury Plains.
I watched the moon disappear
and thought of myself as the sum
of all the people who went into my making
– my father’s stoop, my mother’s hands,
grandmother’s hips, my Scottish soul,
doctor, preacher, grocer, weaver,
silent, dead, mad and drowned,
and not one present beside me
to watch the moon turn black.
The tide of everything being born and dying
stopped for a time in the eclipse
and I looked right through the window of the moon
– right through into Czechoslovakia.

Notes on 14th March ‘83

Light over the estuary. Apocalypse. This road is called
Mount Pleasant.

The newspaper tells me the cops want to talk to all the punks
in Christchurch about the bombing of the North Oxford Bridge.

Black islands on white water. A semiotic landscape. Trying
to tell me something. Underneath the city’s shit is
percolating down.

‘We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity’
written again across the shattered arches of the bridge.
Apocalypse is what is about to happen. As truth always has
‘the last word.’

From fragments construct evidence. Dust surfaces. Read minds.
The difference you note call evidence to set a trap.
‘Give me an egge, Nuncle, and ile give three two crownes.’

That it was done to take photographs of it; that the sun set
that evening for these words to exist is not an arrogant

Great stillness of light shining on the shell of the earth.
To write to make conscious these things: difference,
patience, change, silence. The broken bridge.

From End Wall (Auckland: Oxford UP, 1981) and Letters and Paragraphs (Christchurch: Caxton, 1987)

Last updated April 27, 2005