Miroslav Holub: The end of the world

I would like to publish an eclectic anthology. I don’t know yet who will be included or excluded, it is a journey of first steps. Today, I try to say what I like about this little verse by the Czech immunologist and poetic giant Miroslav Holub, called ‘the end of the world’.

The bird had come to the very end of its song
and the tree was dissolving under its claws.

And in the sky the clouds were twisting
and darkness flowed through all the cracks
into the sinking vessel of the landscape.

Only in the telegraph wires
a message still

C-.-o—m–e. h…o—m–e.
y-.–o—u..- h…a.-v…-e.

We meet a very anthropomorphic bird who has the notion of the ‘end’ of a song. The end of our song is the end of all meaning. After that, everything dissolves.
Then, ‘darkness flowed through all the cracks’. When I read cracks, I hear Leonard Cohen singing ‘and that is how the light gets in’. But here it’s darkness and there is no escaping it. The landscape is sinking, not dissolving. There is a life after the song, but it consists of sinking darkness while everything else has dissolved.

Against this background, the message in the telegraph wires, is as powerful as can be. Holub once said he wants to make his short lines as effective as possible. We don’t know if the message in the telegraph lines is orphaned or if the messenger is still alive. I assume there is nobody to read this message. The poem tells us that technology survives the end of meaning. And that makes sense, since Holub was an acclaimed scientist.

The message announces a newborn son, so it is safe to say (I hope gender studies scholars will forgive me here) that the adressee is a male. To become a parent is one of the most meaningful things that can happen to you, and here we are: in a barren, sinking landscape at the end of the world where birds don’t sing (or crackle) anymore – we have come to the end of meaning. Yet technology still serves its master, relentlessly loyal, beyond the end of the world.

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