Poem #23/52

Here is the 23rd poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:


At the Hotel Pariz
the table of German Fraus
eye me suspiciously
for being unshaven
and ill.

Through the window beyond
their laughing shoulders
I see an old Czech housewife
Just somebody’s mother
weaving her way between
the Mercedes and BMWs
to pick discreetly through
an Art Nouveau dustbin
for the evening’s dinner.


This is a very short and simple poem, and records something I witnessed at first hand. Relative to last week’s post, the irony of German tourists being so wealthy compared to the average Prague citizen has uncomfortable resonance with recent history. Losing a war can be very good for a country, ironically, if debts are written off and a political clean slate provided. Germany has done exceptionally well since 1945 by working hard and peacefully while not wasting resources on pointless weaponry and armies. There’s message there for all of us.

My message with this poem however, is altogether simpler: that economic disparity is cruel and wealth can make people shallow and insensitive. I attach to this post a photograph (trawled from the web) of the interior of the Hotel Pariz, very Art Nouveau, very Prague indeed. I’m going to end with some more images of the work of Czech painter Jakub Schikaneder (as previously promised). These images are highly relevant in that they display great compassion on the artist’s part for some of the impoverished citizens of Prague in his own time. Call me an idealist, but I’d say that compassion is the chief defining characteristic of all great art in any medium.


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

3 Responses to Poem #23/52

  1. denryblog says:

    The Hotel Pariz was used as a set in the film ‘I Served the King of England’ by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabel. Set in WW2 and after, it is a wonderful book (and an extraordinary, unforgettable, film) that echoes some of the points you make in this poem

    • Cheers, denryblog. I’ve read the book but not seen the film. Preferred Hrabal’s ‘Closely Observed Trains’. ISTKOE is notable (and disturbing) for placing a collaborator and traitor firmly in the role of (anti) hero.

  2. Pingback: 52 Poems for 2013, 23/52: Tourists in Prague

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