Poem #21/52

Here is the 21st poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:


The noble carved faces
on all the Jugendstil facades
seem clouded with doubts
in this morning’s fog.

On Charles Bridge
the stalls sell the usual junk
it could be Crete or Majorca
tasteless watercolours
unauthentic antiques
Capitalism’s Midas touch
everybody wants Dollars
hard currency
the hope of the nation
vested in Coca-Cola
and Levi 501s
empirical new clothes
gaudy garments of the west.

And we who come running here
from our soured utopias
we want spirituality, culture,
history and its clean morals
the cafes of Kafka and Rilke
to shed here the same clothes of materialism
to which the street vendors aspire.

Somewhere the two streams
of moving people must meet
in the midst of Charles Bridge
East and West
those going to and fro
systole and diastole
the life and breath of Europe.


The name Prague is said to be derived from the Czech word for threshold, and a threshold is certainly what it felt like when I visited it back in 1995, as this poem reflects. The Charles Bridge is where most of the tourists and hawkers end up, and although it is over photographed (the image I include here is by “Chosovi” from Wikipedia), the statuary and architecture are stunning, and at twilight particularly the place is haunting and theatrical.

While in Prague I discovered the work of an artist called Jakub Schikaneder (1855-1924), which I had never seen before (see above). I include a few of his paintings here, and will post a few more over coming weeks. They are melancholic and atmospheric in what seems to me a very Czech way, but of course he was of German descent (as you can tell by his name) and seems to show the influence of German Romantic painters such as C.D Friedrich and of Arnold Böcklin.

This poem throws up the phrase “Soured Utopias” which will probably be the title of my first book of poetry should I choose to try to publish it next year. It seems to sum up the first part of my life, and maybe everybody’s.

This entry was posted in 52 Poem Sequence, Architecture, Art, History, Photography, Poetry, Psychology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Poem #21/52

  1. Pingback: Poem #23/52 | Douglas Thompson's Blog

  2. Pingback: 52 Poems for 2013, 21/52: ‘Praha’ – the Threshold

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