The Word Made Mud: Interview with the Golem During Which Katrovas Attempts to Hire Him for the 25th Anniversary of the Prague Summer Program

by Director

The Golem, through his agent, agreed to meet me on the bank of the Vltava, below Vyšehrad, at 6 a.m. on a Friday. It was late fall; the sky was turning from black to gray, the moon was pale and almost full, and the air was crisp. The Golem climbed lugubriously from the river, stood dripping on the cement dock before the green bench, overlooking the water, on which I waited. The Golem, eight-feet tall and svelte (for a monster), dropped gently to his knees, sat back on his haunches, dipped his chin in silent salutation. He smelled of mellow rot.


Katrovas: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, sir.


Golem: Where good men gather, vengeance sleeps.


Katrovas: Your English is excellent.


Golem: The stars on a still, clear nights have nothing to do with poignant endings.


Katrovas: Well, be that as it may, you are your father’s son.


Golem: Swans are nasty.


Katrovas: And where indeed were you when the Nazis marched in?


Golem: All love is conditional to the extent that all walls are not.


Katrovas: Well, given that you were born to protect, and that you failed so many, has your reading of Leviticus altered such that you now favor macrobiotics?


Golem: Hysterical laughter resides in every snowflake.


Katrovas: In 1989, on this very day of the year, did you feel vindicated?


Golem: Time’s march is through the hearts of heroes.


Katrovas: And into what? Myth? History? Stupid question. The distinction is academic.


Golem: The laws of nature have neither spirit nor letter.


Katrovas: And what of destiny?


Golem: Father was a man of God, though God was not the father of accountants.


Katrovas: Were you, have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?


Golem: Čapek or Kafka is a false choice.


Katrovas: Do you understand yourself to be a Christ figure?


Golem: Gone are the days of missed opportunities dipping into the glorious realm of compassionate rage.


Katrovas: But, if poetry is dead, is compassion an amusement park out of season?


Golem: Defenestration is the pastime of cowards.


Katrovas: When the right hand doesn’t know that the left one is clapping, do demographic processes get gummed up in good intentions?


Golem: Our poets washed windows.


Katrovas: Thus the soul is revealed. But what of irony?


Golem: Thus the soul is revealed.


Katrovas: Every July for the past twenty-five years, we’ve brought American and other English-speaking writers to Prague because you, the post-Apocalyptic muse, still do the breaststroke in the Vltava at dawn.


Golem: I’m a sucker for sass, a true believer in the soufflé that rises to the fear of extinction.


Katrovas: Will you join us this summer? We’ll pay you three thousand crowns for a forty-minute lecture on sleeping under water.


Golem: You’ll have to work that out with my agent.


Katrovas: Who’s your favorite poet?


Golem: Groucho Marx. And a kid in Olomouc who composes in a Sanskrit argot.


Katrovas: Who’s your favorite playwright?


Golem: Havel and Shakespeare, not necessarily in that order.


Katrovas: Who’s your favorite novelist?


Golem: Kundera and that kid in Olomouc who’s a switch hitter.


Katrovas: Verse and prose fiction?


Golem: Prose verse and lyrical fiction.


Katrovas: As the sun rises, you grow more distinct.


Golem: As the sun rises, so do you.


Katrovas: Does a writer’s life have purpose?


Golem: It has porpoise.


Katrovas: Is that a joke, a bit of Golem humor?


Golem: It’s an aquatic mammal, poetry in motion.


Katrovas: You have, for the past quarter century, blessed the Prague Summer Program. Do you still bless our enterprise? Do you still approve of English-language writers converging on Prague in July?


Golem: I don’t approve, but still I bless.


Katrovas: Your blessing is the high-octane fuel of our ambition.


Golem: I’m sleepy.


Katrovas: The sun is rising. You get the last word.


Golem: I am the last word made flesh.


Katrovas: Mud. You are composed of mud.


Golem: I am the word made mud.


The Golem rose from his haunches, saluted the dawn, and cannonballed into the midst of gathered swans that seemed barely to notice. The splash was an amphibrach.