Edison (excerpt)

Vitezslav Nezval

Life is but once and then there is dark night
we are dying in the ruins of light
like day-flies, like a flash of lightning

And now the sky beyond the trees is brightening
electric wires tremble in the snow
now promenades and corsos are aglow
now our souls are viewed on the X-ray screen
like ichthyosauri from the pliocene
now the clock's hand is moving towards six
now we go off together to the flicks
now spectral shades of gamblers and of witches
are put to flight by our electric switches
and now applause and cheers ring through the house
and Thomas Edison now takes his bows

The party's over now your soul is dark
the guests have left and you are back at work
Look at those inventors and at their resources
yet the stars have not deviated from their courses
look at all those people living quietly
no this isn't work nor even energy
this is adventure as on the high seas
locking oneself in one's laboratories
look at all those people living quietly
no this isn't work it's poetry
It's intention and a bit of accident
to become one's country's president
to become a poet who's outstripped you all
to become a songbird holding you in thrall
to be always lucky at roulette
to be the discoverer of a new planet

A thousand apples have dropped in profusion
but only Newton drew the right conclusion
A thousand people have had epileptic seizures
Saint Paul alone had his converting vision
A thousand nameless deaf have sought a haven
but only one of them was Beethoven
A thousand madmen have considered ways
but only Nero could set Rome ablaze
A thousand inventions come to us each season
but only one of them was that of Edison

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