A Prayer – A poem on the Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Dear readers.

On the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, we are bringing you the poem “A Prayer” by a Czech author living in Australia, Professor Josef Tomáš. With the poem “A Prayer”, the author expressed his feelings of how he, at the end of 1989, perceived an incredible event, the end of communism in his homeland.

The work illustrates the dark background of socialism, the arrest of his comrades and the persecution by the StB and the then regime, persecution that Professor Tomáš experienced first-hand.

“One day in August, I went to my scout friend Jirka. I rang the bell at the gate of the house, when his mother appeared in the window, waving desperately, asking me to walk away. Later, I found out how lucky I was, because at that moment, StB was in the house arresting Jirka. I didn’t see him until two years later on two visits, as I am describing in the poem. And five years later, when he received clemency from President Novotny. He then spent some time in a sanatorium in the Highlands, because he had a lung breakdown. Then followed 21 years of separations, when I emigrated. After 1989, I met him several times. He worked as a labourer and was eventually murdered,” says Professor Josef Tomáš.

 

A PRAYER

Yes – blessed art thou among lands! –

And yet – alone – of your free will –

never would you have managed

to free yourself from the iron grip

of that all-consuming evil,

because we, your fruit, your people,

have only ever been half-blessed…

Like the wick of an oil lamp, at one end

– soaked through with the fear of extinction –

we are heavy, thick and reeking,

and on the other? – there, only rarely,

we burn with an exquisite light,

our unexpected ignition

surprises us most of all!

What are we anyway? –

Whether light or heavy, always shallow

In our feet and heads rarely at home

Forever flitting between two poles

Often sinking into deep stupor

Not finding anywhere a fourth dimension…

You, our country,

so many times devastated,

more than half depopulated,

starved of your own speech …

How do you muster that miracle power

that lifts you out of humiliation?

Now at last you can stop your wailing,

you, with your heads filled with gloom.

Were we not promised

that a few righteous ones would suffice

to save the whole universe?

– and we just one small country!

You, room, flooded with white light

They are praying, they are singing

Mostly simply existing

But turning their gaze in quite different directions

To the usual ways of writing and speaking

Oh you, a time which let women until recently Christian

march in the streets of Czech cities, only now with red scarves,

and let unwashed workers play at soldiers,

and bought the peasants for thirty pieces of silver,

and out of loudspeakers declared several grave sins

– envy, hatred, pride – to be the highest virtues;

and then, a few years later, I saw marching at Wilson Station

the evicted farmer, now convict-soldier František Šeda,

rifle-less, black epaulettes and bloody calluses,

and saw how the borderline of the Russian occupation

ran through a hastily-built barracks at Dolní Žďár,

halfway between Ostrov nad Ohří and Jáchymov,

(imagine, a piece of my homeland, on which I was strictly forbidden

to step, and when I did so anyway, just for a few meters,

a miserable Czech informant immediately made sure

that I was led under Czech submachine gun to the police station

and investigated there for many long hours – by a Czech!),

and from that forbidden side, from uranium Equality and Unity

and uranium Brotherhood, Czech convicts were brought

to the barracks for visits, among them my twenty-year-old friend

Jirka Mráz, sentenced to fifteen years in the mines,

riding in pickups in the biting frost of January,

in closed buses in the stifling summer –

expert architects of such a vicious pigsty,

those halfwit Czech-Communist screws –

I am a witness to it all, I went there twice,

in the same year that in the Marxist library

I felt evil’s hypnotic presence – the protoplasm of evil – on my skin:

it stared at me from the monstrous grey

of the Marxist-Leninist pseudo-teaching manuals…

Perhaps because of all that, and much more,

I, still young, knew where evil dwelled;

where and how it entered unguarded Czech heads,

and then, with their help, flooded the hundred-towered city –

Towers of empty temples – hands unfolded

Windows of crumbling houses – living emptied

Hands of abortion doctors – lives annihilated

Eyes of frightened parents – respect eradicated

Words of corrupt teachers – young minds violated

Speeches of treacherous leaders – crimes uncastigated

and finally the whole Czech land –

Ploughed meadows – you, the dead beetles

Shrivelled fields – you, the dead soil

Poisoned forests – you, the dead birds

Polluted rivers – you, the dead fish

Crumbling barns – you, the dead cattle

Deafened dwellings – you, the dead love

So tell me, how did you manage to free yourself

from that host of omnivorous evils? –

Where did that other power come from,

at first betrayed by us and soon after suppressed by Him –

that power of good? – Those few students perhaps? –

Those few, just briefly righteous,

but cynical once again soon after? …

Oh no, no! That power must be from somewhere else!

Only their mothers’ love could it have been –

or, more likely, their mothers’ fear:

“They beat our children! They beat our children!” …

But in fact, it was you,

you, the Earth, our Earth!

You who are incarnate in mothers! –

Yes, none but you,

you good, great, mighty Earth!

Was not your colour always

the colour of all great mothers:

the mothers of Krishna, of Buddha, of Christ?

You, blue-white, embodied in all mothers!

We had to fly as far as the Moon,

to finally see you as you are:

Blue-white hovering

In unimaginable loneliness

Through the ultra-black emptiness

Of the boundless universe

Now we finally understand those emotionalists,

to whom you have appeared since time immemorial;

always as a celestial queen,

always above your fountain of water,

and with your wall of rock behind you…

Like a blue-white celestial queen –

Tower of ivory,

House of gold,

Ark of the Covenant,

Gate of Heaven,

with tears in your eyes warning of destruction,

urging us to repentance, to redemption!

Oh, stay with us! Don’t leave us!

– ora pro nobis peccatoribus et nunc et in hora mortis nostris

 

And they continue to pray…

In a room flooded with white light…

Turning their gaze in a quite different direction…

 

OM MANI PADME HUM

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