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Issue number two




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Laconic intimations by Josef Janda

From the dirty pond a mysterious voice was heard. It said: If humanity does not turn over a new leaf, it will be destroyed; write this down ten times and send it to your friends within the next three days (and they should do the same). The lady who heard everything said that this could help. Then she was led away and don't ask about the diagnosis. Also, it said, people should indulge themselves more with rutabagas; sides of pork, though, are like a graveyard. Oat flakes and soy groats sprinkled with freshly cut greens are the healthiest. Whoever abides by this shall live at least 500 years and will not, even in advanced age, lose their good spirits. The greatest damage is caused by liquor, cigarettes, and irresponsible screwing. For drinking purposes clean well water is recommended. Distilled water must not be drunk, it is only for batteries: whoever does drink it shall begin to yodel, squint and finally die from an ionic disorder. The premium well can be ascertained by the fact that a frog, or at the very least a newt, is living in it.

* * * * *

The work brigade in the food factory received an assignment to stack up some noodles in the warehouse; this was real drudgery, because they had to drag the noodles all the way up to the ceiling. And while they were really very fortunate that no one fell down and got injured, they were less fortunate when a fifty-kilo spool of noodles unraveled. Unraveled noodles, you see, must be eaten up right away as they spoil very quickly; this, in turn, forced the work brigade to consume them at such a rapid rate that they nearly choked to death from all the artificial ingredients. When the workers left the factory and started to go home, people turned and pointed their fingers at them -- three-meter-long noodles were hanging from their ears, which the onlookers were soon tripping over.

* * * * *

Many a season came and went. Some had the color of a field of flowers; others evaporated like dry ice. He carelessly cut his finger while carving a round of red-deer. The sorrow traveled from home to home and delivered its best wishes. Birds flowed through the crowns of the trees; some of them, rather, were reminiscent of fish's bladders, or some other kind of specialty. They all, quite harmoniously, congregated at the garlic stew. He used to have his stall in a small open space under the chestnut tree; he also sold fish fat there and, in the summer, raspberries. They dug up the kohlrabi and left on a holiday to Lake Balaton; this year, they say, there are some good prices to be had there. It is even possible that, while there, they will be eaten by water paprikas or wild pumpkins. Bees are very useful creatures. They produce a buzzing sound and bring honey into their hen-house. This is fatal for them, and not only on a foggy day. Or, to put it another way, somebody always finds him or herself with a craving. Sheep belong to the more bleating-type of animal. With dung you can at least do some fertilizing, with a politician you can't. A piece of tasty cheese and it's all over for the bees; they almost always fall for that old trick. With a sweaty face they welcomed winter to the square.

* * * * *

First, go slowly up, and then quickly down. And in reverse! Quickly up, and slowly down. Again. Slowly up and then...down, fast, in a free fall before turning yourself around. Up, down. One, two, three up and one, two, three down. Careful about those telephone lines! Up, down. Slowly, now, with relaxed movements -- don't jerk! Slowly...relax...that's right...up and down...the air will carry us along...gliding...gliding...one, two, three up and one, two, three down...breath deeply, circle around, circle around, breath deeply...and fly.

(translated by G.S. Evans)

Josef Janda (born 1950) is a poet and journalist. Originally a machine technician, from 1970 to 1982 he worked as a rock musician. He has been a member of the Czechoslovak Surrealist Group since 1984. Before 1989 his work was not officially published, but since then has appeared in Literarni noviny, Romboid, Analagon, and others. In 1994 a collection of his poems, Tapir a pusku, was published by revue Analagon. "Laconic intimations" was originally published as "Laconicka sdeleni" in the September 4, 1997, literary supplement to the Czech daily Pravo.

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story copyright by author 1999 all rights reserved
translation copyright 1999 by translator