Across the street rests the ugly national machine: a filthy station wagon, its family’s movements through pink plastic and spittle too slow to replace Sunday cutlets for missing hubcaps. Spill out the smeared window draped in a beige patriotism, wooden cross dangling from your forehead: walk with arms crossed, a reactionary cutout unable to exchange sermons for picking up the litter of the littering nation. Do not nod but stare, take odoriferous bows to the envy of all those living west and south: to their techné comforts and atrocity shows, their constipated sugar energy. The country’s savior eases into emulation: Family and Mister God are all that need comprehending.
As if still surrounded by fields of cabbage, scream all night: before falling from balconies, snapping necks like stale cigarettes, toast, blow, spit, and scream some more. Clear your throat in unventilated rooms five times a minute: but never suffocate from those who do not yet know how to wash beyond Saturday evening. With a face full of pork and dough, leave the standard trail of a proud national occupancy: fruit vodka bottles mark time made advantageous beneath brutalist slabs and anti-Semitic and/or football hooligan graffiti. Float kebab wrappers down broken sidewalks, yet another foreign delicacy to be admired at a distance: the littering never cancels out love for soil, for blood. Leave empty beer bottles for comrades in need: a strategy of protectionist taste, support of local economy, reflection on bald heads.
Swerve your way towards shop, church, government office, bus stop: then stand fiercely, frown, move for no one. Even when curbing yourself blind-drunk in the main square Saturday night: do not ever mistake passing thug skulls for martyr halos. Await exorcisms on every street corner: bow for forgiveness to the fat skirted priest who has never looked a layman in the eye. Breathe against the stranger’s back and white-knuckle your coins: return home to blast the overhead fluorescent lights. Stay ready to worry something will end: no more bread, ham, cheese, pickles. No more of the only spice that makes sense: salt. No more sustenance to complain a route through this geographic contempt: protect it to the death. Come to us, come to your family: we invite you, very please.
This ugliness surrounding you is a lie: the lie to end all lies but not all failures. The failure of your ancestry resounds deep in your name: the joke of all our genes. You too walk like a peasant dressed like a cow for a cancelled costume party: you too are tied to the fields. You too stare blankly through intersections with five toes in the road: you too trigger vitriol with your blank wide face and suspicious eyes. You too swerve to avoid interminable potholes and puddles: you too forget to shoulder-check. You too fail to acknowledge strangers passing: which would entail vulnerability, invasion, domination, partition. Which would mean exile from the holy family: from the holy mother, holy nation, holy pork cutlet.
Study the consonant-clustered passwords to their ultraviolence: their tribalism, suffering, and fear carved into an exhausting language. Buses bear down on you as construction spills out onto the sidewalks: you too are forced into zones of centuries of unplanning. Commit a little suicide, diminutive and sweet, after betraying these patriotic values: car, coal, conservatism. Listen, you bicycling vegan Marxist: you do not belong here unless you can stomach the smog. Postwar pollution shall become normal to you: normal is the nation’s synonym for aspiration. Hostile drivers unable to make clean turns, streets of great problems and shoulder jousting: you shall miss the aggression you succumb to.
In one week, the first event: you cycle into the bike lane to cross the intersection and in his beige SUV, clad-in-all-gray fails to judge the geometry of his turn, yells at you from his seat, crosses against your bike’s front 29er. The second event: on the station platform there are expert performances of the ancient Slavic swerve, and amidst the overtaking and jostling, bearded-Napoleon-Complex-hipster slams into your shoulder, you are rigid but give way to the fuzzy responsibility, he grabs your arm and says “are you really running into me right now,” you reply in the master language “are you really running into me right now,” he says “learn how to walk” or something, you reply “learn how to walk ” or something and then “take it easy and have a nice holiday,” he replies “you too.”
There are choices to be made for this bulwark: this Christ of Nations. A nation on the edge of rebirth: one that encourages mutual respect. A nation on the edge of regression: one in which everyone knows that to thrive, you must leave. A nation described as a beast with a sweet side: good luck. A nation looking to hire a foreign PR team to rescue its reputation: accused of breaking its constitution, undermining democracy, and scaring away foreign investment. Read it and weep: take your choice.
Look in their eyes: they look away and stare in equal measure. All the middle fingers, curses under the breath, shoulders knocked, patronizing patriotisms: karma wrapped like the tendons of a dead animal around the chakra buried beneath the castle. There rests the difference between love and hate: there is no blasphemy in the national mirror. Your bow of tension is infinitely elastic: look away.