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The diary of Mr. Pinke (excerpt) by Ewald Murrer



MARCH 10

It will be
beautiful when
the lights go out.

Today Mr. Chaim Finkel came from Prague. I waited for him at the station. Our station is only a small depot. It is far from Voronskie Putí.

From the high steps of the train, Mr. Finkel descended heavily.

He was completely worn out.

The train departed and we stood alone in the fog. A fog that enveloped all but the station building, the pigsties next to it, a pump, and a couple of crones in black, who watched us with tiny, staring eyes.

Finkel grasped the handle of the suitcase and we set off for the house.

On the way, Finkel wanted to say something, but a huge tangle of fog covered us, crept into our lungs, and sealed our eyes. Finkel wiped his with a buckskin glove. The crones in black had vanished. Finkel wanted to know where he would sleep and where he would eat.

The fog dispersed, the carriage carried us to the village. I escorted Mr. Chaim Finkel into the house.


MARCH 11

If the clock has struck,
take the key
and open the trunk.

Yesterday I put up Mr. Chaim Finkel from Prague. Mr. Chaim Finkel from Prague is a businessman. He has come to purchase some land on which the company Isaac Meisel wants to build small factories for processing sheepís wool.

"It wonít work out," I told him.

In the evening, he drank liquor.

Outside, all day, there was fog.

Finkel did not once leave the house.


MARCH 12

Death tickling
round my mouth.

Today Finkel was taken by the house. I showed him around, through the cellar and the attic.

My house is without windows, made of stone, with walls up to seven feet thick. He wondered, why without windows. I answered, "The region here, beasts, werewolves, dwarves -- better without windows."


MARCH 16

Rooster on the tower,
why do you spin?

Still fog.

Mr. Finkel, the rabbi, and I walked around. Thick fog. Damp.

Finkel wanted to have the carriage harnessed. Coachman Rabrath was nowhere to be found. I looked for him in the house. In the cellar, the attic.

The rabbi waved his hand, "Forget Rabrath."

"Weíll get nowhere on foot," said Finkel.

"We wonít," said I.

The rabbi waved his hand. A big tangle of fog began to close in on us. The rabbi grabbed Finkel, stood with his back to the approaching fog and when it reached us, lay down on it. He dragged Finkel down with him. I, too, jumped onto the fog.

We flew away from the village. Finkel was amazed at the soft comfort of the fog.

After a while the village became faint.


MARCH 17

Do you toll
alarm?
I do not toll
this way.

Still fog.


The dog roamed about, then brought an owl from the forest. At the table Finkel grumbled --

"What a strange land, youíre afraid that youíll trip over a dwarf, that the neighbor at the table in the tavern is a werewolf, that -- I donít know what else."

"I, too, donít know what else," I said.

The owl had emerald eyes.


MARCH 28

The crack in
the door glanced
slyly at me.

I leaned on the stone railing of the footbridge, thinking aloud. On the railing, a seagull alighted.

I was thinking about ghosts.

"Surely you wouldnít believe in ghosts," said the seagull.

"He almost would," I replied.

Then I realized he was a seagull and said:

"It is you who speaks to me, I am surprised, seagull."

"Donít be surprised, Pinke," he said.

"And donít be afraid," he added.

"I had been thinking of ghosts," I said.

"I am not a ghost," said the seagull.

"You know, I still havenít got used to you talking," I said.

"Donít worry, Pinke, after all, I, too, was once unable to get used to people talking to me -- so donít be afraid, I donít bite."


APRIL 1

In the palms
the pitcher
maliciously yawned.

At night I took the forest trail from Stolove to Pluzhno.

I had to change my round glasses for the square ones.

Now, close to morning, I change the square for the round.

Dawn.


APRIL 2

The peasant goes home,
the soup smells
of village.

In my life I have come to know merely seven gardens and six cities. The rest is as if in a fog. I only passed through.

Seven gardens and six cities. Sultry, languid noon, branches of the alders. Stairs already cold. Fractured midnight.

Most likely the time before the Last Judgement.

Dawn gazing upward, a timid rooster transports the astronomer along the flames. A swan is the wind.

Shortly before judgement.


APRIL 10

Harpies haunt the stairs,
Furies scratch the door.
We tremble in corners.

Have you ever considered what spiders, locked in dark rooms where no fly ever enters, where not a single strand of light ever falls, feed on? Where only the dim light of a glowing candle casts sporadic shadows on a cracked wall?

Have you noticed how many hands the spider has empty?

Isaac Antan looked through the door into my house. He pressed his face against the glass pane. He said nothing and left again.

Isaac Antan is our richest man, he is rich like no other here, like few anywhere. He is mute.

I often see him in the woods. By the meadows where deer go. His eyes are the same as theirs, and his lips are always moist.

The Gypsy Dilmatsch speaks to him with glances. Antan smiles at him. Dilmatsch is our poorest.

Dilmatsch brought me a violin to fix. It had burst.


APRIL 11

You shall leave
and a dog shall follow
to lick the drops
which manage
to escape you.

A visit to my friend Mumelschau. Mumelschau is an old, black, very horned goat. He is a crazy old fool. And he drinks liquor. He has a famous tomcat, Elem Ryschon. The Elem Ryschon who lies behind the stove in my house.

Ryschon is black, furry, and covered with silver spots -- with little stars. Mumelschau gazes dreamily at Elem Ryschon; he sends him for liquor. Elem goes willingly. Mumelschau then hangs silver charms on his fleece.


APRIL 14

For the goat king they
on two fingers played.

Old Gypsy Dilmatsch went to the seer. The seer lives in Lesna at Pluzhno. Old Gypsy Dilmatsch has had a premonition. He sees images on the wall at home. On his shabby wall he sees magnificent paintings by the masters. Magnificent, smiling baroque figures.

Tomorrow old Dilmatsch will come for the violin he brought to me burst.


APRIL 20

"We are immortal, we will never die,"
said my uncle.
I was sitting in his lap,
still quite small and mortal.

Cloves of garlic hang on the windowframe.

Outside, the round moon. The dog has fallen asleep. Across the road, old Kascheljakova was airing the feather beds.

At night it snowed a little, unusual.

Today a heavy cart, dragged by three pairs of horses, arrived, carrying a bell.


APRIL 22

Wipe
the scythe,
run
down the hill.

I daily observe such a story, although I am not actually aware of it. The forest is scented, the Sun lays it down like fresh fish on a stove. Darkness comes.

The Moon squabbles with the Sun about the fish on the stove. Darkness thickens, the Moon chases away the Sun, turns over the fish, and everything begins again from the opposite end.


APRIL 28

I shall keep
but the shroudís shred
in remembrance.

In the morning the river hurled the fish onto the bank.

I went out.

The road up the hill is lined with aspens.

Dwarves, sitting in the trees, toss down leaves, make autumn under my feet. The leaves are sered from the heat.

Then I noticed that those malicious dwarves did this, that I might better hear the footsteps of the dogs about me.


MAY 3

What is an escape
to who knows where?

Damp in the cellar. Rats scurry around.

Walls like the bodies of old men, chased far away, out of sight. The damp stones of the walls were like the tortured bodies of pilgrims. Only a little sadness in the corners, and a thousand moldy tears, sighs. The fate of rats.

I sat on a three-legged stool, as I sometimes do in the cellar, and conversed with the stones.

In the corner was Mr. Finkelís leather suitcase. That sad businessman had left it here.


(translated by Alice Pistkova)


Ewald Murrer was born in 1964 in Prague. He has had six volumes of poetry and prose published in the Czech Republic and, in addition, his work has appeared in anthologies and journals internationally, including Child of Europe (Penguin), Daylight in Nightclub Inferno (Catbird) and This Side of Reality (Serpent's Tail). The Diary of Mr. Pinke (originally, Zapisnik pana Pinkeho), from which this piece was excerpted, was published in English translation by Twisted Spoon Press, which has also recently published a translation of his Dreams at the End of the Night. Currently Mr. Murrer is editor-in-chief of the weekly Mlada Fronta Dnes magazine.


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copyright by author 1995 all rights reserved
translation copyright by translator 1995