I remember that beer-soaked summer,
That pungent summer in pregnant Prague.
On scuffed grass languidly I would lounge,
Staring at the sky till it promised dark.
I made a mess in the patchy park
Behind the T-Mobile Arena,
Where disused tramlines curved and converged,
Where sweaty torsos queued for Gambrinus
Past a pissed tramp, shaking his penis
At passing punks, despite vacant loos.
A million differing breeds of dog
Paraded the paths, presented their poos,
While I sat and watched and processed booze;
A petrol-guzzling engine, sweating;
Emitting both heat and noise; eating
Hot dogs or smažak – sometimes forgetting
To eat altogether: just getting high
In bushes, collapsing on the green,
Glimpsing a fleeting feeling of joy
In the sky, and imagining I’d seen
A speck of you falling, feather-clean,
On a Bohemian-blue canvas.
By May I’d jettisoned most classes;
I’d stand and stare at statues of Jan Hus –
A cosy clangour of tram and bus
To keep me company, and a pad
And pen I’d barely used – then I’d walk
Up Wenceslas Square, barer than it had
Been on any late Sunday when bad
Lads from Kent or Fife would blight its nights,
Shed wads in its strip clubs, white-wash
Cobbles with vomit and try to start fights.
By a fast-food shack I’d scan the heights;
Trying to memorize the skyline,
I’d settle on the bank where you worked
And fantasize your name on the by-line
Of the postmodern play we’d co-write
If you weren’t married to some Czech guy.
I tried to adjectivize faces
As they shot me glances and passed by,
Unaware that my intrusive eye
Rendered most such notes invalid:
See this colour brick, this make of car;
This teenager, tanned; pensioner, pallid;
This grated carrot passed for salad;
And this metrically measured beer glass.
One day I inverted a shoebox,
Spread my acrylic paints on the grass,
And killed time before taking a class
In your office. The results weren’t great.
I’d prepared a lesson on grammar
But we finished over an hour late;
We browsed your holiday snaps. The date
I remember: my older brother
Had his picture in the NME,
And I’d recently taken another
Student on: a guy like no other,
Who owned a castle and donated
Blood and sperm on a monthly basis;
Who as a youth, for a girl, translated
Cure lyrics and was disappointed
With the results; who enthused for hours
About his many sexy conquests.
“Had I but a tenth of his powers,”
I daydreamed, “well then I would wow her.”
I’d leave swathes of lovers in my wake,
Scandal would be my shadow constant,
Lust would dictate my every mistake;
“Confessions of a Repentant Rake”
I’d call my autobiography:
It would sell by the suitecaseful, and
No one would guess the author was me
Except you, and you would choose to be
True, and discrete. In my flat, replete,
I would sit on the cigarette-burnt sofa
And watch Sex and the City on repeat
And think about you, while in the street
Outside the sounds of society
Refused to cease, even through hot nights.
I wrote poor poems and drank builders’ teas
And applied for MAs, overseas.
You said you’d been redecorating
Your flat with your boyfriend for two years.
On the way home I was close to hating
Him, whom I knew not; contemplating
Later, I came close to tears, but laughed –
Taking a quick shower in the bath –
(“… picking lemons with William Howard Taft …”)
Recalling what you said and just how daft:
(Or was it “… sipping consommé …”?) that
“Toes” and “fingers” were the same in Czech.
The same word, at any rate. I mean, what
Kind of civilized race allows that?
The song stopped, I switched the player off.
I thought about Amelia Earhart –
Lit a cigarette, and began to cough –
Wondered whether, when her plane took off,
She knew she had all that in her head;
And whether if, as the song had it,
All that flashed before her, then she was dead.
I’d not forget you, I think I said;
I knew you’d cause some slight contusion.
Today I saw that book you gave me
And smiled, recalling my own confusion
When I’d just reached a conclusion
As to whether you were beautiful
And you said, “I am parachutist!”
You missed the article, as usual.
Mistaken for art or rubbish