Monday, September 10, 2012

You Don't Do That To Kafka

You don't do that to Kafka / Tadeusz Rozewicz

Kafka's monument stands in Prague

of course it didn't stand up on its own
it was raised without being asked
whether it wants to stand there
and in what incarnation

the sculptor wrapped his work
tightly in babble
wagging his tongue
until the monument was left

as you can see
the monument consists
of an empty sportcoat
and baggy pants
this brass bag
is filled with the ghost
of the evil father

on his shoulders sits
an adult Franz––elegantly
dressed––in a fedora
and tightly creased
bronze pants

the son sits on the shoulders
of his giant Father
the evil Father

despite his tongue
very quick tongue
and moves straight out of a circus show
the sculptor
couldn't turn
a weak monument
into a work of art

in a Jewish cemetery in Prague
I saw
a stone monument
with Father and Mother lies
the famous
Son of whom they knew
so little . . . 

From my Czech
translator Vlasta who met
Ottla's daughter Vera
I know that
the silk merchant Hermann K.
the son of a butcher was a good
and caring patriarch
a good husband
who loved his son
laughed at Max Brod
and read the prose of Raabe

Franz Kafka earned the right
not to have monuments made to him
not to have T-shirts
undershirts teacups
hankies undies
plates with the image of his face on the bottom
he earned the right not to
have Kafka cafés
not to have
souvenir shops

Kafka's monument stands
in Prague
it was raised without being asked

"and who were we to ask?"

the Spirit! Ladies and gentlemen,
you should ask Kafka's spirit
(and cup your ears)
Kafka's Spirit says: please
do not praise me do not raise me
and since I'm already standing here please
do not unveil me!

I want to stay veiled

do not bring to light
my women my tears
my parents my sisters
burnt manuscripts
my wounds
do not comment on my
life death trial
do not turn this into a circus
do not draw out of me
every secret
do not pull me
into a coffee shop
do not look me in the mouth
I'm not your horse
(a beast of burden
for various charitable foundations)
don't tell me
that I loved
second rate
actors that I was
a timid fiancé
do not turn me into
an exemplary bureaucrat
an impotent an athlete
a Zionist a vegetarian
and an admirer of
the prose of Max Brod


Joanna Trzeciak translated the poetry of Tadeusz Rozewicz from Polish into English. To mark the author's 90th brithday, Norton produced this hefty collection, SOBBING SUPERPOWER.  

Prague's Kafka Memorial by Jaroslav Róna was unveiled in 2003 by the locally powerful Franz Kafka Society.