Diary of the Plague Year: Day 36 20 April 2020: Quotidian Poetry Miroslav Holub (1923-1998)



The only masterpiece
I ever created
was a picture of the moth Thysania Agrippina
in pastel on gray paper.

Because I was never
much good at painting. The essence of art
is that we aren’t very good at it

The moth Thysania agrippina
rose from the stiff gray paper
with outstretched, comb-like antennae,
with a plush bottom resembling the buttocks
of the pigwidgeons of Hieronymous Bosch,
with thin legs on a shrunken chest
like those on Brueghel’s grotesque figures
in Dulle Griet, it turned into Dulle Griet
with a bundle of pots and pans in her bony hand,

it turned into Bodhiddharma
with long sleeves,

it was Ying or Shade
and Yang or Light, Chwei or Darkness
and Ming or Glow, it had
the black color of water, the ochre color of earth,
the blue color of wood,

I was as proud of it as an Antwerp councillor
or the Tenth Patriarch from the Yellow River,

I sprinkled it with shellac, which is
the oath that painters swear on Goethe’s Science of Colors,

and then the art teacher took it to his study
and I forgot all about it

the way Granny used to forget
her dentures in a glass.


The Rampage

translated by David Young with Dana Hábová,
Rebekah Bloyd and the author

faber & faber

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