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The Big Five - O
by Dr. Lawrence Nannery
2013-06-09 10:24:26
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Well, you have achieved it, the return.
Thirty years ago, exactly, they ran you out of here.
The Prague Spring was over, and you had to run for your life.
You were twenty then, and fond of saying that
Life is not worth living unless there is something to die for.

But die you did not, in part because this city is so beautiful
And you always wanted to return.
And so you have achieved this: you are one tourist among millions,
Savoring the remembered odors, the dream of open possibility,
Solidarity, and the reframing of the human world.

Having run away from danger, your generation had the privilege of living quiet lives.
But living without fiery speeches is quite a bore.
Quietly but firmly keeping belief, but unable to exercise belief,
You breathed and moved in the past, walked about with it stuffed into your pockets,
Trying not to talk about it, but always thinking about it.
The world had moved on to other things, and you too, without even knowing it.

And that was when you got to learn about life, real life:
A very long series of little disappointments within the frame of one big disappointment.
The world, which you had so cavalierly rebuked, now got its innings in,
And tried you, disappointed you, and wore you down.
The texture of normal life is not so interesting, but what else is there to do?
You traveled the customary roads, giving loyalty to family and friends,
Entered into communities that were there before you and would outlast you,
And  —  you see now  —  always saw you as a stranger.
That was how the world rebuked you.  You could never have anticipated that.

So you set down your pail like a freed slave where you were, and piled small gain on small gain.
But when everything is just one damn thing after another then there is no point.
So you peregrinated with a pocket full of hope, wondering where to invest it.
Such a possible man.  Such an absurd figure, leading with your chin,
Trying to find a reality, a worthy place to lay a fragile egg of hope.
You were building your personal monuments,
You were digging a coulee, larger and larger, with dreams of possible escape.
Suddenly you were expelled from it, looking all around for it.

Things declined even in their growing, all things evaporated.
One by one they left you, cut loose, cut you loose.
Where is your father?  Dead and buried.
Where is your mother?  Dead, buried.
Where is your brother?  Gone away, has not the time, not dead but dead to you.
Where is your sister?  Gone crazy, buried in madness.
Where is your wife?  Flew the coop with some fellow from the other side of the valley.
Where is your daughter?  Missing.  Unforgiving, unreachable.  Changed her name so you
Can't find her.  Left no address.  Spits fire.
Where is your son?  Disappeared.  Hanging out.  Never calls.  Angry for reasons unknown.
            Self-righteous, unrighteous: speaks badly of you to strangers.

What happened to your career?  Aborted.  Stolen.  Left unnourished.
Where went the world revolution?  Fled now into pre-history, like the ghost it always was.

Where, with all this as a history, can you turn?
Where is your place, the where where they have to take you in?
In this way one came to freedom. …
One is free, free … an arrow in the blue.
Free as the astronaut outside his spacecraft.
One could just roll, roll away, roll through empty space forever.
Is there anything worse than being a rootless cosmopolitan by default?

Stripped bare, you found yourself a lonely organism, unmarked, unremarked,
Whose task was to spiral to the tip of the mountain of recognitions
And memories, seeking, after the storms, dramatic skies and landscapes.
You sensed that what you were seeking must be out there, somewhere,
Like magnetic mountains in the dark.

And so you wended again to Prague, thirty years later, seeking wonder,
To see if anything was here to recapture, to see if you could restart.
To see if the beauty here would open you up,
Make you feel your own nerve endings and make you love the world again.

Look there through the window.
The amber setting Sun enchants the clouds and softens the sky.
It is the beginning of autumn.  Those aren't freckles on your hands.
Raise the amber glass and salute.
Do not think, nor opine, nor resent, nor rail,
But drink in, absorb, whatever comes your way.

The city is dressed up for you. 
There is no more turmoil now. 
Everything is neat and clean, and polished and in working order.
There is nothing more for it than to see the sights,
To see the sights, the marching tourists swarming,
Listen to the sounds, the hundred tongues of the inquiring multitudes.
Smell the smells, taste the food, the beer, the wine, the perfumes of life.
Stick to things tangible, there is nothing else.

Yesterday, on foot, a ghost, with a desperate coyote mouth, you played the tourist,
But you no longer believe that someone must be waiting for you.
Once upon a time every building, every square was pregnant with possibility,
With erotic expectation, with the promise of happiness.
Delightedly the very dogs (but not the cats) lolled their tongues in loving fraternity.
Thirty years before every open window, every garageway was agape with love.
Every sewer, every passageway, seemed to breathe and seethe love.
Now a doorway is just a doorway.

Words shiver, expectations rise atop the grave mound that is the past.
You are not the first, friend, to be stranded on a barstool
In a foreign land, unable to reveal yourself to the surrounding hordes,
Invisible, irrelevant, peaceable, waiting for whoever  — someone! — to walk through that door.


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