05 March 2012

Katabasis

Walking down the hill from Vinohrady to Vršovice, the visitor passes the villa of Ladislav Šaloun, architect of the statue of Jan Hus in the Old Town Square. Here, in the early 1900s, Šaloun and a number of his friends regularly participated in occult séances.

Down the steps to the atelier
(windows bright with late November sun),
leaving behind their desks and wives
come the pince-nez’d brethren -
shadows, wrapped in first-republic coats -

reaching at last that stone-faced god
high on the dark shores of Vinohrady
that marks their rendezvous:
the sea. The sea.

Homburgs on hooks,
they descend once more into the cave,
into the spirit world.

Now gather round.

A lamp; the flick of a card.
One calls the prophetess and she
immediately answers
with the sharp bark of a dog.

The light goes out. And through the sealing dark
as if in a meadow, comes the goddess of
fields, diaphanous among the birches.

She seems about to speak.

An instant, then a light
wind ruffles her hair and
she turns into a wave,
her ocean washing over their
upturned faces gaping like dead fish
under a beating sun.

The prophetess lets out a whine;
Her body arcs and spasms, and she wags her tail.
The meeting’s done.

The kids outside,
who don’t believe in ghosts,
light up another joint
and kick back up the steps.