The Dead in the Castle

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March 16, 2011 by The Citron Review

by John Williams


The fog pervades Prague until it is no longer
Prague but narrow trenches to filter dust
though light. Though the sun is masked somewhere
above, behind a cloud or tower, the slick streets
smell of night and the cobblestones sparkle
like diamonds in a jewelry store case.

Winding through the claustrophobic avenues that open
to courtyards paved in the concretest sense of time
and held motionless by a thousand camera eyes,
we drift to different sides of the Vltava,
you by the castle, me the cemetery,
with only a bridge connecting us
and a sunless apartment, blank walled,
and a desire to reconverge like parted waves
regardless of the direction our feet have taken
and our tongues trapped between language.

Kafka wrote from this gray heart of love and disconnect.
Surely he’d be struck wordless by the vast, giant
oneness of sand and sea. But here, beneath weighty circumstance
and transparent chains held together by veins, muscle, bone,
brick, he reached for his city like a coy lover’s hand.
But nobody’s words can judge the shy heart of acceptance
or if a great journey fails.

I can see you straddling both ends of the river
pulling them together by will alone, until the Jewish dead
rest below the castle walls, until its doors open
as easy as a page. On such pristine moments of hope I forget
ours are also the unending paths twisting toward the visible
yet unreachable, each spire a footprint,
each shared dream an afternoon fog.


John is a poet and book publicist residing in Portland, OR. He has a previous MA in Writing and presently studies Book Publishing at Portland State University, where he serves as Acquisitions Manager of Ooligan Press and publicist for Three Muses Press. His poetry was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize, and his debut chapbook, A Pure River, was published in 2010 by The Last Automat Press. Some of his over 100 previous or upcoming publications include: The Evansville Review, Rosebud, Ellipsis, Flint Hills Review, Euphony, Open Letters, Cadillac Cicatrix, Juked, The Journal, Hawaii Review, Cutthroat, The Furnace Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Aries, and River Oak Review.


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