Benatky the Fair


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They say that Venice to the north is fair,

fairer than the golden strands of steaming hair

encicling Apollo's crown.

The streets were vacant when I came;

deserted when I left.

Through the cool shadows of the morning, I  walked

to the rising warmth of dusk.

I wandered through the town's deserted streets

from castle ridge to local vitner and back,

around the empty lanes where Jan of Drazic once rode

and John Augusta raised his voice

to protest Catholic avarice and vice.



I stood before the windows where Tycho Brahe gazed

and spanned the universe with measurements,

between the earth and backward roaming Mars

that conjoins with Saturn every twenty years

to create chaos on the earth.

Where Tycho left a record of a solar eclipse

so many centuries ago on June sixth.



I left the vineyards sleeping by the castle

to follow the wayward road

that led beyond a lazy wooded hill

into an tangled path.

It led me down through meadow lands,

across a narrow rumbling bridge,

and through waves of newly scalloped fields

where workers fought with enormous snakes of irrigation pipes.

Dust clouds rose from the padded footprints in the sand;

time stretched its legs behind me.



Each step was yet another,

kilometer and kilometer together,

there'd be no turning back.

I saw the noble falcons circling in the sky,

awaiting a rabbit to go bounding by.

The onion-pickers  bent double by their toil,

did not unbend or wave at me

as I passed them by.


And still the way lay long before me

as day stretched long behind me,

I passed, a shadow,  through  villages alone.

The road wound round deserted churches

and forgotten  baroque saints,

created for the counter-reformation

and persecution of Bohemian Brethern

that inhabited this land.

Though Thirty Years of war were fought

and even more endured,

the land lies peaceful in this evening

that echoes with the shot

of a solitary huntsman shooting wily pheasants.

From meridian to eve I kept my pace,

and feared I might miss the train

and sore pressed, I never once  looked back

to where I once had stood

before your house.


There was no other way

when I had stepped upon the path,

for way leads onto way

and path breaks into path.

 I made the lengthy trek

from Benatky to Lysa on the Labe.

Unless I put your home behind me,

there is no way to Prague.


They say that Venice to the north is fair,

but fairer is Benatky

that hides the secrets of your eyes

and the shadows of your smile.

And there, the  birds all practice lively trills

to contest your fingers'  lively arpeggios

and even lowly chickens got Gershwinn's rhythm

in cackling enthusiastic syncopation.

The sunlight flirts with shadows on the Jezera

with kisses rippled by the wind

that  reminds me of your gentle laughter

mixed with the charm of Mozart arias

inside the Lichtenstein Palais.


Somewhere in evening's shade,

a listener hears a snatch of Brahms Ballade,

the rippling charm of Chopin's nocturnes

and Debussy's moonlight's enchantment

spun with the spinner's gossamer thread

that snares the gleaming raindrop

to glisten in the morning sun.


They say that Venice to the north is fair,

but fairer are your hands

that draws the winsome music from the keys

and weaves its net around me.