Fragment B101

Two speech-bubbles scribbled in chalk
a door sign of sorts
on plaster beside the door:
Here, Madness Dwells.

He’ll come to meet me smiling, the day he cracks.
A few more steps and the smile will be gone,
I’ve never seen someone grow so dark all of a sudden,
his whole face collapse, forget itself
and stay agape, left all at the mercy of whatever,
and watch with gothikly dilated eyes
how it grows,
uncontrollably grows.
Until someone’s voice interrupts him,
calling his name. Since his mother died,
Frantisek has lived all alone in the house.

He’ll lead me down the corridor,
nodding to whatever I have to say,
his all-too loose trousers sliding down his hips
below his black pudenda,
which I’ll eye and divine
with mild perturbance,
before he tugs them back up.

It won’t be clear what I’ve entered into.
The behaviour usual, the responses usual.
Just the circumstances,
that we’ve trespassed into his house
turning it topsy-turvy, carrying stuff out, slashing at the walls, drilling,
sitting at his table, pouring coffee,
and laughing at jests. He’ll acquiesce with it all,
for appearance sake,
all too readily,
but with anger flashing through.
He hasn’t taken his pills. He claims to have forgotten to.

He’ll get down to it.
Focused, meticulous, and yet wherever it should fall
he’ll paste the sandpaper upon the wooden tablet.
From his drooping lower lip saliva will dribble,
every now and then
drawn-out white saliva
will dribble,
much to his ignorance,
to his full absorption

everything needs to be thought-out well

it’ll be a premonition,
though-out well, before it is begun, lest it be begun
thoughtlessly! He’ll say, meaning
the house,
though pretending to mean something pseudo-general

sandpaper is meant for abrading

nota bene: sandpaper is really meant for abrading,
how often one forgets!

I’ll notice he underestimates me not.
He’ll rip off a scrap of the sandpaper,
dusting it thickly with washing up powder,
moistening it with water,
then his fingers will pulp it into a mesh,
which would be unimaginable
for anyone except him and me.

The gross granularity
will froth filthily.

He’ll add an admixture of saliva,
futile inhibitions all over now,
everything calling for purification.
With that repulsive grey mesh he’ll set about scrubbing
the squalid sink, stove, floor, cups,
the dried stains of grease and grime,
nothing’s going to stop him,
he’ll spit right onto the floor
professing meditations on human nature

human nature above all!

what else,
just to cleanse it all through.
For before it all and through it all
it was sandpaper that spread the universe into its entirety,
the question of cleansing
reaches straight into the clean
through and through

take it from the viewpoint of the sandpaper!

he’ll instigate me,
blinking meaningfully,
sternly examining whether
I comprehend he means what he says
with special intent, just for me,
regarding what’s vitally essential,
so that I know

take it
from the viewpoint of the sandpaper
and the cleansed table
and it all suddenly becomes clear
you’ll find out about the future and

Sadly enough, I’ll fail to.
Memory will grasp it all in scraps
bound to disintegrate and discombobulate
over the years
like a recollection of ancient prophecies pronounced
to the reverberations of the cavernous echoes

because one needs to work
to think through the sandpaper function
achieving the knowledge of oneself
for it is not said in vain

Which he surely utters not in vain.

In the lecture halls I came from,
having sat through and gabbed away quite a few years,
this sentence was sometimes recited
in the intriguing-sounding language of the original,
or in translations which, for all their intriguing sound,
always resemble a fleeting idea which could
even mean something when it comes to it,
whereas here
it’s as if through all the dust, smoke, mould and filth
there was a dark flicker
of Heraclitus himself
in the final consequence
from Ephesus.

It’ll dawn on me:
Be cautious of what transpires while getting hold of this paper!
It’ll dawn on me:
The sandpaper’s granularity mirrors the granularity of the world and yourself – a mere grain.
It’ll dawn on me:
Skidding and wiping, compounding, chafing and glittering, crumbling and dust.
It’ll dawn on me:
It’ll dawn on me:
What’s crucial is detail, a sole point among points,
the turning point.

the turning point.

He’ll look at me, plucking some straw out of the mattress,
then he’ll spit on the floor, stirring up clouds of dust,
and set about cleansing it with the straw, frantically.

realisation and knowledge, now there’s a difference!

I’ll no longer believe what I’m hearing

realisation and knowledge, now there’s a difference!
let me show you
what it actually means


He’ll dunk his fingers in the cup and then with a swing
he’ll sprinkle the floor with water
like someone commanding the dust to settle and to cease from suffocating.
And the dust will abide.
For that’s what’ll be at stake here.
my salvation,
for every breath will sting.

As he won’t fail to recognise,
realisation is friendship.

He’ll say that himself in those very words

realisation is friendship

Then I’ll lead him outside,
away from the house where a crew of fellas in dungarees
will still go on roaring, slashing at walls, stirring up dust,
nothing for him to play witness to,
I’ll walk with him through a landscape awash with sharp spring sun,
glimmer all around, the bare shadows of tree trunks,
pebbles drifted to the wayside jamming in
a fresh, genuine,
yet un-smoothened world.

So far I’ll be there with him,
but this almost is decisive.

It’ll be futile to try to explain anything,
all in all, words consist of sibilants only,
he’ll point to a pile of sand across the fence, he’ll screech his soles,
I’ll draw in the air with piercing brusqueness
and he’ll nod in approval of my final discovery,
it is indeed a fundamental thing,
breath and dust, chafing and glittering,
friendship and acumen.

But that screeching

Waiting for the psychiatrist
still at the ceramics workshop
he’ll be working out tricks
how to grate the sandpaper together with the colour of clay
and manufacture models, launch production

I told you I knew what you were missing!

and with this truth that changes everything
and surpasses all experience,
I’ll lead Frantisek to the reception office.

This one more thing I’ll let myself be commissioned with.

Realisation and friendship.
Through and through
or almost.



Translated by David Vichnar, 2011