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Prague, autumn, secret

Many times it feels like running towards nothing. An uncontrollable urge to embrace the unknown, a dizzy feeling of joy throughout the waterfall of time. Then again, it’s raining now and the last phase of summer has lurked in.

I will never forget that summer in Prague three years ago… A hot and sweaty summer it was, we all had a hard time breathing. The sky was constantly lightblue and everything was green, green, green, so green I could barely stand watching. There was something unnatural about the heat, it made us do weird and unexplainable things, as if everything had gone beyond control… Days followed days and in the heat of July, it seemed like summer would never end.

The graveyard was within a spitting distance from Šárka’s home. We often went there in the middle of the night with a few bottles of wine and some candles. Each graveyard has a special atmosphere, probably strongly connected to the area and its people buried deep under the ground… and yes, most of them are cold and dark places with a certain eerie aftertaste… Yet our ‘garden’ was the cozy, peaceful, serene kind of cemetary with ivy running all around the graves… every time we went there, the trees and the statues were dancing in a beautiful shade of silvery moonlight. The whole place had such a warm and calm atmosphere that all hostile feelings were gone within a second once you were there. There was nothing mysterious or spooky about the place: it was just pure reassuring and spirit-soothing, if I can say that…

Once we stayed for the whole night, talking, dreaming, laughing around the graves. The first ray of light came early in the morning, and within a few minutes the sunlight was so intense that we had to realize it was time to leave. An old lady came to water the flowers of the nearby church, smiled and let us in… and there we stood, in the middle of a tiny mediaeval church in Bohemia, in a beautiful old graveyard, with heavy gothic make-up running down our dirty faces… and a bit tipsy or perhaps still all drunk. She had no second thoughts and shared her small kingdom with us weird strangers envading this earthly paradise.

By the time we got out of cemetary, the sun was high on the sky. It was the unbearable, crazy, sweaty hot summer again, with no shadow to ease the heat… We took a few steps to get back to reality and then… all of a sudden… we looked around and saw red-and-yellow-and-brown leaves all around us on the ground… The sight hit me in the stomach, it was so intense I had to sit down. “Already!”

A strange air of death touched me in that very moment… In the heat of the summer, in the worst dog-days when everything is about sunshine and drought… a tiny glimpse of autumn creeps in, from one moment to the other, crookedly and unexpectedly. It winds itself into the blue sky and the leafy trees, poisoning the pure essence of what is called summer… Or perhaps it’s been here all the way through, ever since summer has taken over… maybe this small graveyard – as the only place on Earth – has stolen itself a small segment of autumn and secretly kept it for a while, until it gets stronger and conquers the continent. And while we were getting ridiculously red in the swimming pool, cooling ourselves down with cold beer and ice-cream, autumn was quietly and wisely waiting here, in front of the gravyeyard, buried under the green leaves, silently smiling and saying “just wait, and you’ll see…I’m here…”

That’s how all things pass away… everything in life. The thought left me puzzled. “Párisba tegnap beszökött az Ősz./ Szent Mihály útján suhant nesztelen,/ Kánikulában, halk lombok alatt/ S találkozott velem.” Except that it was Prague, not Paris. Prague, Paris of the East.

So simple and easy to learn poems by heart when you’re a child, and recite them later as an adult, still with the heart of a child. If only you knew that the hated task is to preserve youth inside you (by building a bridge to your heritage), you’d be happy to cram those words even if you may not understand the meaning behind them… I guess you will only understand their true essence much later, in a completely different setting, in a foreign environment. Perhaps the sole purpose of these poems in the long run is to offer some sort of a buckle that binds us all together, all of us people who grew up under the same framework of history. Nyelvében él a nemzet and of course, nem tudhatom, másnak e tájék mit jelent…

There I was, murmuring poetry that only exists on the level of commonplaces by now, finally understanding their importance. It was a locked code I was unable to decipher in a foreign land, it was like a precious little diamond that disappears every time I try to show it to another person. Yet it was mine and I was in full control over it. Similarly to autumn itself and its secret hideaway in the Prague-graveyard, I carried that precious little secret inside me from that point on, forever.

Itt van az ősz, itt van ujra,
S szép, mint mindig, énnekem.
Tudja isten, hogy mi okból
Szeretem, de szeretem…

2006

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