inspired by Reiner Stach’s ‘Kafka The Years of Insight’, a biography of the second half of Franz Kafka’s life

was it just
too obvious
that you wrote
much in a room
cramped stiff
with cold of a
tiny house hard
against the high
stone wall of
‘alchemist’s lane’
those mad chemists
of centuries before
who worked their
sand and base metals
saw in one eye
wisdom and courtly
riches their vindication
and acceptance
trying to reach across
the natural tier
of the elements to
raise the most base
to the highest
and rarest
it’s said the
simpler, truer
picture was
this lane
in fact
was where
worked, you
in that tradition
then beating out
your words into
ever thinning sheets
that tore on a
rupture in the
your stories,
intimate as a
dream just
woken from
still fast under
the nails
a stain
across the eyes,
what is it
in them that
sells us down the
river for the price
of our return?
intimations of
the great disjoint
of time
of times
of borders that
waltzed crowns
that wobbled and
rolled of
where one
at best
would yoke
the others
at worst
uproot and plant
them into
eden burned back
to the stump
the snake biting
down on its tail*
unto death
blood filling
the planetary
you struggled and
won out in time
to learn the tongue*
of your ancestors
a language that
sounded as if
clearing its throat
for song while
you coughed blood
to catch up with
it and carry the
melody like the
dusk over prague
over the tabernacle
the dusk that broadened
to a table for your
pen and precious

january 2014
nelson st


*Alchemist’s Lane in Prague, where Franz Kafka’s younger sister Ottla kept a small rented cottage in which her brother stayed and wrote in for a period.


*alchemical symbol of renewal


4 Responsesso far.

  1. Dean English Dean English says:

    Post-quake has created a new dynamic; certainly some businesses have suffered, yet others have never had it so prosperous…

  2. peterlebaige peterlebaige says:

    Thanks a lot for your reading, guys. Auckland in spring, cold winds storming back in and pulling spring off the branches, trying to tell us the cold has not yet left. Post-quake Kaikoura is no doubt, economically, hard on some from what I hear of businesses closing down.

  3. Mark Prisco Mark Prisco says:

    love the poetry, Peter. The mood, the intimate tone of your lines –

    intimate as a
    dream just
    woken from
    still fast under
    the nails
    a stain
    across the eyes,

  4. Dean English Dean English says:

    interesting consideration, Peter, in the first part, of guilded craftspersons on the doorsteps of the aristocracy and new wealthy merchants, as if working for praise and recognition alone.
    And how are things on Auckland? I haven’t been north for at least 18mths.

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