Joan White

Prague Spring, 1968


Looks more like November –
a sky threatening with gray clouds,
moving East to West.
Oppressive air broken by cries
of a counterculture of crows,
thunder of Soviet tanks in the distance.
The Plastic People of the Universe
have laid down their guitars.
Demonstrators stand in front of
the statue of King Wenceslas—
the rider’s face obscured by the horse’s head.
Two others in clergy robes flank it.
The discontented form a line between them,
holding up a banner in a language
I don’t speak. But the message is clear.
They want what all men fear: change.

In the crowd, a small young woman stands
between two men, shoulders locked.
Her hands empty save for heart line and lifeline.
Heart line broken in two places,
lifeline skidding around the hand’s heel
escaping the thumb’s grasp.
She’s standing on tiptoes
straining to keep the horse’s head
in the cross hairs of her mind’s eye.
Longing for the rider’s face to come into view.
Longing for the horse to rear up,
tear off like a guitar riff.
As he passes, he’ll lean low,
lifting her to the saddle—
saving her from this history
for another.


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