Justin Quinn



                                   i.m. Ivan Martin Jirous

I can’t believe the stylish, unbowed swagger
with which you passed through prisons in the ’80s.
        Marched round and slapped and hurled
about your cell, none of it troubled the great ease
you ranged in brazen rhyme over the world.

A kind of roughneck dandy, like Mick Jagger
howling in Hyde Park in 1969,
        you flounced about the place.
But then went on your knees and made the sign
of the cross, in prayer, asking God for grace.

Then revolution. Freedom. The drunken stagger
of your late poems pointlessly down the page.
        You’d sometimes flash your dick
in bars for wild amusement and strip on stage.
Jail kept your talent disciplined and quick.

But you were never going to play the makar
to your friend Havel in the Castle. Stalked
        in those years by a shade,
a werewolf in your lines who scared and mocked
and drew you towards him, you saw the life you’d made.

Nickname: Crazy Asshole. (In Czech Magor.)
Calling: poet, saint, felon, misfit.
        Rest easy underground,
who never rested easy over it.
Your rhymes sing clearer: death turned up the sound.


JUSTIN QUINN‘s most recent collection of poems is Early House (2015). In 2017, he published translations of the Czech poet Bohuslav Reynek. He works at the University of West Bohemia and lives in Prague.


Read more by Justin Quinn:

Poem in The Manchester Review
Poem in New Yorker
Poem in Berfois