Miroslav Holub

:

How to paint a perfect Christmas

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Translated by George Theiner
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On top you paint
a sky as gossamer-thin as seaweed.
Below you pour on a little darkness
heated to room temperature
or a little higher.

In the dark a small tree will
scratch its way up with cats’ claws,
the most beautiful tree
beyond the dreams of
all the world’s forests.

And the little tree starts
shining by itself
and the whole picture sings
with green joy,
with purple hope.

And under that tree
you must now place
what is
most important,
what you most wish for yourself,
what crooners with guitars
call happiness.

It’s easy for a cat.
A cat will put a mouse there,
a captain will put there
the biggest jet-propelled halberd
which can shoot, fire and salute,
a sparrow will put there
some blades of grass for it to nest,

a bureaucrat will put there
a closed file with red tape,
a butterfly will put there
a new latex peacock’s eye,
but what will you put there?

You consider, consider
till the daylight fails,
till the river has nearly flowed away,
till even the light-bulbs begin to yawn,
you consider
and eventually
in that darkness you blot out
a hazy white spot,
a little like a ducat,
a little like a boat,
a little like the moon,
a little like the lovely face
of another person,

a hazy white spot,
perhaps more of an emptiness,
or the opposite of something,
like non-pain,
like non-fear,
like non-anxiety,

a hazy white spot,
and you go to bed
and tell yourself:
yes, now I know,
yes,
next time
I’ll paint
the best Christmas
ever.

Please note that these translations were later revised, and can be found in Supposed to Fly (Bloodaxe Books, 1996), reproduced here by permission of Bloodaxe Books in a translation by Ewald Osers.