Two poems by Miroslav Holub

Composition by Aleš Veselý (1935-) in the Egon Schiele Art Center of Český KrumlovComposition by Aleš Veselý (1935-) in the Egon Schiele Art Center of Český Krumlov

 Napoleon

Děti, kdy se narodil
Napoleon Bonaparte,
ptá se učitel.

Před tisíci lety, říkají děti.
Před sto lety, říkají děti.
Loni, říkají děti.
Nikdo neví.

Děti, co udělal
Napoleon Bonaparte,
ptá se učitel.

Vyhrál válku, říkají děti.
Prohrál válku, říkají děti.
Nikdo neví.

U nás měl řezník psa,
říká František,
jmenoval se Napoleon.

Řezník ho bil a pes umřel
hlady
před rokem.

A všem dětem je ted líto
Napoleona.
 Napoleon

Children, when was
Napoleon Bonaparte born,
asks the teacher.

Thousand years ago, the children say.
Hundred years ago, the children say.
Last year, the children say.
Nobody knows.

Children, what did
Napoleon Bonaparte do,
asks the teacher.

He won a battle, the children say.
He lost a battle, the children say.
Nobody knows.

At us the butcher had a dog
František says,
he was called Napoleon.

The butcher used to beat him, and the dog died
of hunger
last year.

And now all the children feel sorry
for Napoleon.
(1960)

Jdi a otevři dveře

Jdi a otevři dveře.
Třeba je tam venku
Strom nebo les,
Nebo zahrada,
Nebo magické město.
Jdi a otevři dveře.
I kdyby tam byla jen
tikající tma,
i kdyby tam bylo jen
duté vanutí
i kdyby tam
nic
nebylo,
jdi a otevři dveře.

Jdi a otevři dveře.
Třeba tam pes zaškrabe.
Třeba je tam tvář,
Nebo oko,
Nebo obraz
obrazu.
Jdi a otevři dveře,
Když je tam mlha,
Spadne.

Aspoň
Průvan
Bude.
Go and open the door

Go and open the door.
Perhaps outside there is
a tree or a forest
or a garden
or an enchanted city.
Go and open the door.
If there was only
the ticking darkness
if there was only
the empty wind
or if there was
absolutely
nothing,
go and open the door.

Go and open the door.
Perhaps a dog is scraping there.
Perhaps a face is there,
or an eye,
or the image
of an image.
Go and open the door.
If there is mist there
it will clear away.

If nothing else,
a draught of air
there will be.
(1962)

It is already ten years that Miroslav Holub has died. He was born in 1923, almost at the same time as my father. “By profession an immunologist, by vocation a poet”, as Kapuściński would say. From 1956 a founding member of the avantgarde circle and review Květen (May). I first met his enchanting poems at the beginning of the 90s in the little book and tea shop near to the Hussite Bethlehem Chapel of Prague, where they sold avantgarde publications in printed, stenciled and handwritten brochures as well as cheap Indian silk scarves and also a living parrot. Holub would have remained satisfied if he saw it. Perhaps he saw it indeed. In any case, he lived to see that his admirers in the observatory of České Budějovice officially gave his name to the asteroid no. 7496. discovered in 1997.

Miroslavholub, a 7496. számú kisbolygó