Smoking Men



"Kuřáci" (1994)
By Jiří Sopko

In the painting their faces are blank
as a good place to lie down in, dreaming
of a boy who’d arrive with kisses.
Unaccountably green, their skin flattens,
and the seven windows of their souls
are small and shuttered. So lost
in unspeakable thought they seem blinded,
as once when I lay in fields, my cousin
over me, his fumbling distant
and tangled though in grass I was buried
already. Nearly metallic and smooth,
an apparent order drones in flight
above mountains whose identical peaks
gnaw the sky and the men who are smoking.
Pipes droop from their mouths
like the yellow tongues of dogs. When farmers
burned the fields a plume of straw
and vapor rose straight from the ground.
Without wind the air was inward
and still as the great thing went up.
As the men do not speak. Their mouths
are wholly consumed with burning.

American Literary Review, 2002