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the defenestration of prague, a poem

illustration of defenestration of prague 

The Defenestration of Prague

(originally published in Snakeskin)

When my father was six, the other children teased him,

calling him a dirty Bohunk. My grandfather promptly

changed the family name. By this he collaborated


with the enemy, he repudiated the family tradition.

Thus you don’t know how resistant we have been.

You have no idea of the damage we can cause.


Sure, we look like anybody else, but those children

sensed something amiss. I myself want to throw

people out the window all the time, even after I know


they don’t deserve it. I come from a long line

of defenestrators. We take our frustrations seriously,

we live for the dark moments of the soul, we are the truly


evil people, we upset the apple cart time and time again.

Our closest neighbors have always hated us. Thanks to

Grandpapa, I can pass for educated, empowered, lucky.


I have respect for the less fortunate because they have

respect for me. However misguided, they know precisely

when to ask for favors, they never ask too much.


Back home in Prague, 17th century, only the priests were

allowed to drink the blood of Christ. The children never knew

why the grownups were so upset. The children didn’t care


about the bread and the wine, they didn’t know how

they were being insulted, they didn’t know they were being

treated like children, all they wanted was to be talked to,


played with, tickled under the chin. They only wanted to eat

bread and chocolate, get nuts and oranges every Christmas.

But my ancestor Greguska Pomikala threw two Habsburg


representatives out a third story window, unwittingly setting

off the Thirty Years’ War. He was frustrated when he threw

them over the wide marble sill — so cold as his fingers


pried their fingers off. He took nothing with a grain of salt.

I am familiar with how he felt at the victims’ moment of takeoff.

Sometimes I wish I’d followed in his footsteps. He felt


as if he’d married the most beautiful woman in the world

only to be told, You can’t touch her. Greguska wanted to drink

the wine, too. He wasn’t happy being given bread alone.


Neither am I. I am taking back the family name, the family

traditions. Don’t ever cross me and expect to stand

alone, with me, in a room with windows.


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