Radka Thea Otípková


Of my father’s failure to perish
aged five        of rheumatic fever
as well as his father’s undrowned boyhood
of my mother’s mother’s lilies-of-the-valley in a church on a Sunday
the farm long orphaned in need of a man           her dress
unkind post-war tweed no more bridal than a uniform and yet
how she cowered sixty years later among her parting prayers
with the knell detonating in her ears
and of my shortsight and uncertain ways
the weight of being the only one ousted from a womb
where else could you more surely never return
of all that
not just years plucking my hair like flowers
not only the rigmarole of pain but rivers
whose depths I’ve learnt to read for fish
the movements of vines one never sees or the world’s
overlapping circles on a white table top
fists on fire    windows boarded up in haste
I’ll die of anything
I’ll die of anyone
I’ll die of anyhow
with the earth
just there        underneath me         not giving way


There was a memorial of names
scratched into a wall, but, if you ask me,
just as much permanence
is in accidental fingernail marks in pears
lined up for sale. I’m no longer there.
I no longer think of the names, IAN,
Not until I feel like a pear that is, which is
almost entirely never. I still hold on tight
when I travel faster than my feet can take me,
because, geez, it isn’t easy to get the jail out.
I can’t help waiting at each door for someone
with a key or going round and round
in circles to put off the nowhere-to-be. I cross
and uncross a field and when it rains, there’s me
collecting rainwater in case there’s ever none again.
I go to sleep baffled by the rooms I’m not in
and then I sit there, on my bed, back and forth,
back and forth, swaying like a maniac.
I know you’d say, Look at the asshole, he’s praying,
but it does feel holy to hear yourself whisper,
I won’t get recalled, I won’t go back,
help me unlearn who I am.


I am waiting for you. Part of my wall
will need to go to get you in. It will
never heal. This is how they’ll find me,
small, perfunctory, unfit for a king, but
I’ll hold it all: chariots, thrones, trumpets,
perfumes, precious oils, lapis and gold,
and apricots, oh, apricots, I’ll often
imagine them perishing in the dark long after
they have gone. I’ll recall the odour of lamb
changing in strength from a mere waft
to a putrid punch. Who’d ever think
in cessation there is so much life? No,
no eternity’s resins and balms
can stop the bustle of dying in the jars
housing your liver and lungs,
or in the muffled echo of your anatomy’s
final sarcophagus. I’ll never miss you.
You will never not be with me
and when even the deaths have died
and there’s nothing left but desiccated time,
I shall still keep the breathing riddle of you
inside your missing heart.

RADKA THEA OTÍPKOVÁ writes poetry solely in English, her second language. Her work has appeared in B O D YThe NorthTears in the Fence and Moria. In 2017 her collection was shortlisted in the Poetry Business International Book and Pamphlet Competition and her poem “Coup de Grâce” was shortlisted in the 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition. In 2019 she won the Waltham Forest Poetry Competition. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. 

Read more by Radka Thea Otípková:

Poems in B O D Y
Poem in Moria
Another poem in Moria
On Twitter at @Thea_otipkova