Post-Velvet Poetry

Viola Fischerová
Fischerová book 1
Fischerová book 2
Read extracts from Babí hodina by Viola Fischerová below.
Viola Fischerová was born in 1935 in Brno. She studied Polish and Czech in Brno and at the Charles University, Prague and later worked in the Czech radio. In September 1968 she left for Switzerland, where she held various jobs and studied German and history at Basle University. She moved to Germany following the death of her first husband, Pavel Buksa, who was known as a Czech writer under his pseudonym Karel Michal. From 1985 she lived in Germany and in 1994 settled in Prague. She has written for Radio Free Europe and translated from Polish and German. Although she began writing in the 1950s, her poetry had to wait until the Velvet revolution to be published. She is the author of collections Záduaní básne za Pavla Buksu (Requiem poems for Pavel Buksa), 1993, Babí hodina (Hag's Hour), 1994, and Jak pápìøí (As Feather down), 1995.

Extracts from Babí hodina
Babí hodina may be translated as 'the hour of the old women'.

But they elude us
those old women of dust
and sackcloth

Dried in the baths
by robust
handsome dead

those old women
with crumpled faces
no longer recognised
even by the mirror

those old women
in themselves

over black marble
with saucers cups
and jugs


And secretly they cast a spell
those witches as if
in an alien skin
who now and still yet know
how lightly to walk the street
in a tight skirt and heels

and how in the very centre of ferment
the old women change as if
into beautiful women
stepping with buoyed-up looks

those girls as if
in another's skin
who now and still yet sense
what men are good for

and they crave
for boys with kissing mouths
whose touches make vanish
flourishing spots and faded scars

and loved in the white night
till dawn comes
they remain lying
as if naked legs entwined
laying not a finger on themselves
till left
by the lover
for a single moment
of first sleep

p.13 For Olga Castielli

And never do they begin again
the transparent lucent
fluttering-up game of the flames
They are consumed
And in the holy fire
their daughters are burning
Do they envy them? Not envy?
Those old women silently take
their young granddaughters on their lap
they rock them
and stroke

p.15 For Wera Rathfelder

And in the end
those old women love
even the ginger hound bitch
that exterminates hedgehogs

and the patchy cats
which bring them
dead blackbirds
to their duvets in the morning

They scratch beneath their chins
and behind the ears
that tenderness which
cannot be different
and likes to feast
on bleeding chunks of meat


And they live alone
those old women
from Christmas Eve
to Christmas Eve

One time more
they spread before them
the royal table
with fish on Meissen china
silver cutlery
and candlesticks which

those old women before them had
who came
already in black
with their last ring

those dead old women
with the heirlooms
of chins and noses mouths and eyes
divided at Christmas
amongst the children and grandchildren
of their children


And sometimes they've had enough
Sometimes they weep
when they trip on the mat
and don't kick back

Those old women
the daughters of mothers
and mothers of daughters
who love
and shriek

Oh the longing for something sweet!

and then in the corner of the patisserie
those old women stuff
with ice-cream whipped cream
cake cream
the little girl

who also wasn't allowed to
and had to
and wanted to die
on the tiles of the bathroom
when she was only


And one day every one of them
in the bathroom the doorway
the final defeat

Next with relief
almost with amusement
they inspect this incontinent
alien old woman
who is no longer squeamish
condemned forever to be
as not to be


And all around they cultivate
the parks and gardens
Beyond the window where only
a week ago
and yesterday
all her greenery was whole
a wall of concrete gapes

A headless row of shrubs
pruned for the beauty of spring after next
birdsong from nowhere

Weeping a little she secretly plots revenge
She'll abandon the lot of them!
Even without leaves
it buds and sprouts underground
her sweet once-wood
It stretches its roots toward her


And what she hears she does not see
what she feels she does not grasp
The scent prompts the memory
but the memory of eyes does not speak
to the memory of hearing and touch
holds only the anxiety
of the unknown

Means to do what does not mean does
what she does goes and does
something other for whole days
in bed in spite of him
who left her and
who lives alone
the fate of bones and of earth

p25 For Sylvia Kirchhoff

And their abandonment
has gaunt shoulders
That is the all-bone
giving them a sign

It leads them at night
over the plank bridge above the precipice
kindly like a guardian angel

It shows them
the girlish mother beneath the apple-tree
the arrow-shaft smile of a sickle
regal wings
from which a pearl dropped
father and man
boy little shepherd
turned to stone in relief
and four happy days

At dawn beside the goose pond
it lets back into the water
ancient embryos
living and playful

It rests
How obstinately her knuckles
huddle into the soft hands


What of the little girls within them though?
Those who were felled
when they were not yet twelve
by love itself
by betrayal itself

Those fair-haired lily-bearing
that flew in the night
over the long dark waves
knees gripped tight

Soon they will go
into that brown dark
where the fathers will strip off their armour
and bare on the golden foliage
love them like men

and that holy mother
beneath the kerchief
won't be there
she'll go to a nunnery

and mistresses turn to wood
their hands drop off
and there in that dark
where each will go alone
to all the little girls
the cut-off head will grow again
and the broken heart
be whole

and now they forever
will love
as they loved only once
so wholly
and guiltlessly
the man
who is father and god


Only where
am I to go
into that dark
among the stars where my girlish
mother circles
and dances

that slim-hipped semi-virgin
with foxy eyes

Still she doesn't want me still
doesn't have me still turns aside
and looks elsewhere

and now I am oh her
fear and she is my

That first garden

There the eagles and snakes drink out
the eyes of unborn children
and a white unicorn
enemy of girls and embryos
slays them

There the river does not flow
a stove bakes children
and where you are
you are opposite

Stop it mother
Both of us have swallowed a snake
You me and I

How you cherished me!
All your life like the apple
of your eye
implacable unblinking
that your my
Let's stop it now

After all mother you never
will tell me where
I'm to go
into that dark
where you girlishly dance
among the stars


My mother betrothed me
to a Japanese girl

His mother took my measure
for a dress I wanted to have
and prepared a wedding
The girl was permitted a kiss

How can I a girl
take her as a husband
how can I become
her wife

Mother and father
according to the ancient Japanese custom
took this girl
and put her in a cage

There she burnt quickly
as I briefly glimpsed
from a distance

p.31 For Vladimír T.

Ah who still asks
about her virtue and the number of
beds in which she quelled her desire
how wide were her eyes
and whose was her shame
when she crossed the body in bed that morning
and crawled out into the day
again without that child
who might
have painted worse
or better
than him


Time yet and now
almost at the end they come
their anointed worthy of love
only in sleep
While they
at nights fish from streaming water
their silver white and shining


Her net has fallen on you also
the sand which pours from the wall
You crawl behind along the path
where you used to run on ahead

Dog fights and meadow dances
no longer amuse
And young dogs bore you

Disturb your circles
as no longer male
you search in memory only
for traces of ancient scents

What good to you is my love
You fix your eyes on me
from behind the armchair

For over a month I haven't passed you
even a piece of meat

I who am able
The cause of your evil

p.45 For Josef

As if it was a matter of where
and how she spends the ageing time
of drawn-out summer afternoons

whether she wanders
under the royal oaks
in gilded gap-filled memory
or in cafés where she grew up
eating up what is and is not
for herself

or else
if on a bench on the green
of an unknown village
she gently puts down roots
into the dust and the clay
to the age-old pealing
of pungent smells
from stables and cowsheds


A couple of days ago the buds burst
now the swollen tips of branches
gush down the avenue
Bared into nakedness
childhood reeks in the sun
of powder and urine
A heavy slow stream
into the furrow of water and foams
Bodies hate
the rights they once had


When it occurs to her
she no longer wants anything
long-ago landscapes hurl themselves at her
in the hot midday sun
- Here on a stone once you laughed
in the waves
truly happy -
For me from the future there gapes
only what has passed


How the green morning grits and crunches
in the teeth of her daughters' daughters
when she
voicelessly chews in her swallowed mouth
the names
of her dead husband and son
eating only herself

Not wanting to drink she stares scarcely getting up
from the armchair in her room
That her death has begun she knows
as little as her hairless bitch

lying by the wall full of
life no longer

p.80 For Mother

And she goes
being abandoned even by images
she can no longer lift her two bodies
the stiffened self and cold home

no longer struggles
till morning with a shirt
and stockings

Has given it up
Everything that wasn't and was
and could be
No longer serves for herself

Let go even the visit
that does not come

Lies ever so quiet
and dreams of her last green tree
beyond the window.

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