Elegy with Java Chip Frappé
I was standing on the corner of Stroupežnický St, my back to the synagogue, looking at a tree full of all the dust of August, and past the tree to the crossroads at Angel, and past the crossroads to Plzeň St, and past Plzeň St to Palacký Bridge. The evening was still a long way off, the sun was scorching my back and the hot air shimmered everywhere. In my pocket I had a pile of cash for working overtime on Soviet hopper cars.
– Jan Zábrana, “A Pile of Cash”
I’m watching you from Starbucks across the street,
You’ve got a pile of cash and you seem happy.
Who would have thought a Java Chip frappé
would lie there hoving in the narrow strait,
the street that’s only seventy years wide
that lies between us? Trams glide past as well
like alternating current, stopping a while
to make crowds surge and ebb on either side.
English, Russian: you spent your life between them.
“I’ll die in falsified history,” you said.
My friend, where else is there to die? The dead
stack best in fake news or a national anthem.
The Java Chip frappé still in my hand,
I leave and follow you across the river
where there’s a dreadful shithole you revere,
a kind of pub plus brothel, hotdog stand,
flophouse and rowdy tearoom all in one.
You’re happy still and there’s that pile of cash
still in your pocket. The last of the sunrays flash
across the river. Now for the night’s fun.