The Czech sea

Lahvová pošta, a message in a bottle. It seems almost absurd that such a term has been also coined for it in a language where you can never meet such a thing. Nature has refused a sea to Czechia. So it was up to literature to bestow one upon her: Shakespeare in The Winter’s tale, and Radek Malý in his recently published children’s poetry book Moře slané vody, Sea of salty water.

Zavřete oči.
Slyšíte, jak šumí?
Nadechnĕte se té vůnĕ.
Čechy leží u moře.
Close your eyes.
Do you hear its sound?
Inhale the scent.
Whisper: Czechia
lies on the sea.

As a native of another landlocked country, I can fully understand the desire towards the sea, as one tries to conceive on the basis of the blue sky that other infinite, dreams about shells, ships, islands, prepares to be a sailor in Kőbánya, and, finally, the first encounter.

První vzpomínka

mám plné
veliké slané vody

Objala zemi kolem pasu

The first memory

My eyes
are filled with
the great salty water

It girds the earth at her waist

We swim

Blessed shore, says Shakespeare about the Czech coast, and so should it verily be. But he also adds: unpathed waters, undreamed shores, which cannot be true, since it emerges so often in dreams, one travels across it time and again.

O cestĕ

Zeptej se moře na cestu
Řekne ti: všechny cesty jsou tu
Vítr tĕ vezme do všech koutů
a není snadné nalézt tu
nevede ke dnu
nekončí včera
nevede k zemi lidožroutů

Ale já ji najdu, tati
najdu ji, a pak se vrátím
About the way

Ask the sea about the way
it will say: all ways are here
the wind takes you to every corner
however, it’s not easy to find
the one
that does not
take you to the deep
does not end yesterday
does not lead to the land of man-eaters

But, father, I will find it!
I’ll find it, and then I’ll return

In these children’s poems what is beautiful, is that they are not pedestrian, not artificial, not affectedly funny, like most poems written by adults for children. They are spacious and personal and to be continued, like the sea, like a dream. And the two merge with one other on the Czech shore.

Velrybo velrybičko

Vidĕl jsem velrybu
bylo to ve snu
byla jak ostrov Byla noc

Dlouze se dívala
až na dno klesnu
pak připlula mi na pomoc

Dokud jsou velryby
nebudem sami
na moři ani za noci

Ale až nebudou
co bude s námi?
Kdo připluje nám pomoc?
Whale, little whale

I saw a whale
it was in a dream
it was like an island. It was night

it gazed long
into the depths
then it swam over to save me

As long as there are whales
we will not be alone
on the sea, nor in the night

But once they are gone
what will come of us?
Who will swim over to save us?

Even the illustrations, by Pavel Čech, are like dreams. Like children’s dreams: from a little salt, a little ink, a basin of water – the endless sea. And like Czech dreams. In front of the crumbling wall, the worn frame, who could fail to recognize Josef Sudek’s basin, and from now on, who will not see in Sudek’s basin and glasses the sea of Pavel Čech?

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