one-off at the wrist


The inconsistency of memory. I long remembered [or so I thought] a poem from ‘A’ level English, which has stuck with me always, or at least the imagery of the final line,  “they found her in the morning, daws pecking at her hands”.

Alfred Hitchcock, the birds, 1963

Alfred Hitchcock, the birds, 1963

I searched long time for the poem and the poet to no avail. I even asked at the British Poetry Library, convinced that it must be an English poet, as the romantics and metaphysical poets had been the area of study. No one had any idea [even ‘daws’ comes up as an incorrect spelling in most auto-spell checkers].

Only years later did I stumble upon the answer, in relation to one of my favourite poets Ted Hughes and his Crow series. Why such works remain little known amazes me [though I do believe my misremembered ‘daws’ is more powerful than ‘sparrows’?] but I guess it is down to the dominance of the English language publishing world?.

Five minutes after the air raid by Miroslav Holub

In Pilsen,
twenty-six Station Road,
she climbed to the third floor
up stairs which were all that was left
of the whole house,
she opened her door
full on to the sky,
stood gaping over the edge.
For this was the place
the world ended.

she looked up carefully
lest someone steal
or Aldebaran
from her kitchen,
went back downstairs and settled herself
to wait
for the house to rise again
and for her husband to rise from the ashes
and for her children’s hands and feet to be stuck back in place.
In the morning they found her
still as stone,
sparrows pecking her hands.

Translated from the Czech by George Theiner`


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