Turn Off the Lights. . .

Turn Off the Lights. . .

It’s springtime. The tulips have faded, but the lavender bearded iris nod their heads to passersby on the sidewalk where Charles used to walk. 2007. To shake off his attacks of panic. I remember. The frustration. The fear. What could I do? To comfort him.

His love of beauty. of flowers. of women. of art and music. I think. Of the passion that drove him to write his story and how his resolve became my resolve. To get the book published. I remember. What he said.  He must tell. About Munich. 1938. Chamberlain, Daladier, Mussolini and Hitler. Turned off the lights.

Still Life at 13 by Charles Novacek

 Song of the Native Land/Turn Off the Lights

(Zhasnete Svetla)

My apologies to the poet. This is a loose translation of Jaroslav Seifert’s prophetic “Turn Out the Lights,” about the Nazi threat hanging over Prague after the betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich. Seifert was the first Czech to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984.  

As beautiful as flowers in a Modřany jug,

is the land that bore you, gave you life,

as beautiful as flowers in a Modřany jug,

sweeter than a loaf from fresh ground flour

into which a knife you’ve deeply sunk.


Countless times disheartened, disapproved

always newly you return to it,

countless times disheartened, disapproved

to this land so rich and sun-anointed,

poor like springtime in a gravel pit.

As beautiful as flowers in a Modřany jug,

heavy as our guilt that will not go away

―never can its memory decay

at the end, at our final hour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *