Be Well

Tomáš Míka

Translated from the Czech by Tomáš Míka and James Hopkin


The universe is full of stones you don’t know
Yet you use them to build your dwellings
Hoping they will take off with you one day
Said Our Lady and continued:

Refrain from alcohol and coffee
Drink water with apple cider vinegar before each meal and
———every morning before breakfast, two cups of lukewarm water
———with lemon
But first do the Five Tibetan Rites and even add the Sixth Rite
When nobody watches, you stand on your head and avoid
All kinds of carbohydrates to be ketogenic and eugenic

Chew each mouthful for ten minutes
Remember that your ancestor was a hunter-gatherer
Let animals live
Train your sphincter
Incontinence does not wait
Jog, swim, ride a bike and
Suppress your squirt
And if you are a woman
But you are not
Make sure to
Suppress your scream
Only then will you attain perfect health and thus happiness
And live many years
In this valley of shadows through which
Red tears of laughter and yellow tears of sorrow flow against each other

Cry often
Over the funniness of rapidly decaying human beings
And lament the tragedy of their doggies
Cry over Finnegan the Impossible
His brother Ulysses the Incomprehensible
And, in the meantime, listen to Einstein on the Beach
Tears are healthy, see,
And what is healthy, eat!
It strengthens you
What strengthens you
Strengthens your parents and children
And your children’s children and the entire human race

Bees stung humankind’s soles earlier than cattle
Honey probiotics will thus do you better than yoghurt

How true is the saying:
“You’re a wasp
You bring no honey
And in your abdomen
There’s poison”

Be fit and the green green grass of home – don’t smoke that shit!
Where would Inter play with Juventus if such as you
———smoked grass beneath their feet?
Scrapes sustained on cinders are often fatal!
But don’t refuse seeds baked in wholewheat cakes sweetened by royal jelly
Miracles happen, you’ll see
That rheumatism of yours, those varicose veins you suffer from,
———those never-ending eczemas and athlete’s foot, all that will disappear
As if licked off by the antibiotic tongue of some dog
As if exorcised by a single swipe of a stinging nettle
———plucked in the first days of Spring
Remember to strengthen your memory by Ginkgo biloba!
So often people tend to forget to use it and oblivion then
———spreads over your whole world
Over all your past you enjoy so much to rummage through
———and to which you cling so hard
So do not ever forget to take Bilbo Giloga!

A flying bird gathers no moss
Smear evening primrose ointment slyly all over your body
———and you will fare well on the Earth
Massage your joints using hemp oil with added seaweed
So one day you can enter the gallery of the Chosen Ones
Who have tasted interstellar space
If you regularly grease your body with Marigold balm and drop
———tea tree oil into your nostrils every morning
Even you will put your foot on the Moon one day
And what does the unknown astronaut have to say?
“All engines running. Lift-off!”

Think of your task:
Move humankind away from these imperfect bodies, here and there improved with a
———platinum joint, stainless steel screw, sillycloned breast or gold tooth
The bodies prophesied in sacred episodes of Star Wars and
———Egon Bondy’s doctoral thesis.

Never say “I could not resist,” if you order a grilled pork knuckle, three mugs of Pilsner beer, five scones with clotted cream and two shots of vodka
You kid yourself but Our Lady won’t be fooled.

We are irreparable machines
Maintain a siesta before lunch and after or else insatiable fatty acids will devour you

When you’re all made of platinum and gold
When microconductors run through your body in the distant future
When you think solely in binary terms
Your weight will be constant
However, for the time being
For now
Keep weighing yourself

Whose bread with chia seeds you eat, his song you sing.
Don’t look with contempt for dentures in her mouth
She also ignores your enlarged prostate
You have not always been so young
Remember how many wrinkles, bags under your eyes and age spots
———your today’s youth cost you
How many hairs turned grey in panic and fled from your skull
Before you became a twenty-year old lad!

Trim your overgrown eyebrows
Since it is loathsome in Our Lady’s eyes

You gather,
Our Lady throws out
That’s the stone of stumbling no-one can laparoscopically remove from your body

Are you fascinated by the precision with which the wind suddenly rises at noon
Which closes windows and bangs doors?
Do you marvel at the fact that hot water flows from the cold-water tap?
Be sure that there are many more mysteries than these and that you will
———understand not one
Thus, marvel over everything
Over the flattened sun above the sea horizon
And do not try to understand the signalling of clouds
Be purposefully dumb and trust blindly
Our Lady will love you

Do not take away pebbles and shells from the beach
They lose their colour and shine when dry
And when back in your block of flats, you won’t give them a single glance
Think, therefore exist!
What’s that junk for?
You’d rather draw your belly in and push it out again

Old faeces vacate space for younger ones
It’s the opposite of how it should work in trams

Clusters of villages at the foot of the mountains
Horizontal rows of stars where roads lead
Metaphors fallen from the night sky are lying on the ground
It’s enough to lift them
And throw into a sorted waste container

At higher speeds, Newton’s laws no longer apply
And Einstein, Zweistein and Dreistein start,
Laws of the aircraft falling apply just to you
Others will do with road crash statistics
If you get into the metal tube yourself
It will fall with you inside even before take-off

If your washing machine sounds like a concrete mixer, it is quite likely that
———you will wear concrete or mortar clothes pretty soon.
Then you can safely practice yoga in the tomb of your ancestors.

Open all windows in the house at night

A brush is not enough, said Our Lady, get yourself a tongue scraper and
You will have honour with the elders.

Do not think only about what goes in. What comes out is also important.
As the Sun rises above the mountains from the turnstile of morning and night
Let all the undigested good leave your system at the break of day
Indigestible good
“Never let the Sun sit on your toilet,” says the Polish proverb.
Get through the great joy at the gates of dawn and you will lightly and cheerfully
———jump around the planet all day long watering it with tears of laughter and grief
———between which you are not able to distinguish

Haven’t you learned to flatter those in power? Why? Don’t you have any talent for
———studying? Are you a dyslexic or dysgraphic? That’s the only excuse in Our Lady’s

When lightning thrusts into the room, do you close the shutters?
Or perhaps you’ve heard that a loving couple attracts lightning
———more than a lightning rod?
You feel like a little bit of whole grain love from the farmers’ market?
Naturally fermented, unfiltered love?
Do you want to scrape the scales from a mermaid’s tail?
Spill peas on the doorstep?
Crack a nut?
A car is a Faraday cage!

Climb up to where
On the top less grows
Pick the pale flowers
Dry in the shade of your palms
And during long
Evenings drink tea

When scorchers end, flies appear
When flies’ wings become weaker, frosts occur
When you cannot step out of the house for cold, harmful sweets arrive
With candies, obesity comes and with spare tyres, what comes, hand in hand, is
Cardiovascular disease
Beware seasonal fluctuations!
Perform regularly massage of the pelvic floor
And Your Lady will brighten her face

When Yin noisily copulates with Yang, ozone is produced
It positively affects intestinal peristalsis
Sets villi in motion and pushes everything to the sigmoid colon

Hold on to light and the human pack.
Look at Esther and Ruth – they are as big as barrels
Look at Jonah – the whale would have problems swallowing him
See what happened to Isaiah – he is indistinguishable from a woman
His chest could breastfeed koala bears
Had they not been obscured by his dirty beard
Full of vermin of the desert

First they’ll cut your scrupulously cared-for thyroid gland
Then your plane will fall into the ocean
You’ll get cancer
And finally you’ll kick the bucket due to the heavy weight of your years of youth

Silicone can enlarge many things
But be careful when it comes to your brain
You’d rather have them enlarge your ears and listen
To Our Lady’s good counsel

If it is dry and does not weep,
Thank Your Lady and the Sun
Which gives your skin vitamin D

It is to your great merit in the sight of all mankind
If you slim down and get rid of excess kilos
Also Our Lady will view your lovely figure
With affection
You’ll get the State Award for your excellent, well-developed back muscles!
You will receive the Golden Lion for your six-pack!
Your kayak will be conferred a knighthood!

And when you’re all slim and petite
When your hair starts to grow again and your wrinkles are smoothed
When you look twenty years younger
Someone will come to reap with a grim and rusty scythe
To communicate to you their opinion of all that wellness of yours
You’ll be told their view of vitamins and antioxidants
With a single slash the elasticity of your arteries and veins will be praised
There will be much astonishment at your excellent memory and
———one more slash will come
You’ll have time to recall your first memories
Back in the crib in the home of your early childhood
And when the third slash comes
You will find yourself right in the most luxurious spa
In the best wellness facility
The non-plus-ultra gym
Here you will really feel
Welly welly well!

Do not invite anyone
Do not console anyone
Greet them when they come
And quietly hug

Reek of garlic!
You zero
Eat a clove three times a day
Finish it off with onion
Brush your teeth with bio-dung
And Your Lady will be overjoyed
When you try to rouse her with the kiss of life
Her limbs will spontaneously spread to embrace you
Especially if you subsequently consume licorice, cinnamon,
———lemon, shii-take, seaweed
Take an ice water shower in order to increase immunity, breakfast on
Poppy, pumpkin and sesame seeds, a tuft of wild fennel
And wash it down with a solution containing a grapefruit seed extract
Then you will see a devastating smile on Our Lady’s face
And will rest for a split second in her velvety madness

Don’t deprive your body of prunes and tantric exercises!

Pour sugar and white flour on an anthill
Put milk into a bowl at the door
For poets, kids and cats

Are you not satisfied with the appearance of your sputum?
Pretend a bird did it!

You do not like the gentleman in the mirror?
Pretend it’s your father!

The greatest invention since the invention of the wheel and gunpowder is a bidet.
Why do you find enjoyment in carrying around remnants of your faeces
———between your rear folds?
Wash your butt after the great joy and a host of heavenly ladies
———will enthusiastically kiss it!

Eat jelly to cure your rickety meniscus
Crunch also chicken joints and you won’t be writhing in pain and
———falling to the pavement when getting out of the tram
Drink sencha after yoghurt
Sunbathe your tumours on the balcony
Meditate and your brain will stop producing this blather
Do copulatory movements well and you’ll be rewarded by hell
Air is not a woman
Nothing is perfect
Nothing is finished
Your Lady remembers nothing and loses her house keys.

If you want to commit suicide in the sea
Do not choose Sunday afternoon swimming with mother to do that

On principle, do not use soap or shampoo and particularly avoid your feet

Put worn clothes in the designated place
Our Lady hates it when they are hung around the flat and it is unclear
———whether they are clean or if they need to be washed and ironed

Do you know the true and memorable verses of the great poet of antiquity:

“But the daughter cannot rest;
To the lake, as if possessed,
Something drives her…
But only while she’s jung –

She gave birth to a child
She’s no longer wild
There’s nothing that stirs her
As if pursued –
Swimming no longer suits her mood.”

Therefore, copulate with the air while letting out of your lungs uproarious laughter!
For health in the evening, for beauty in the morning.
You’ll prolong your life by three weeks and gain the favour of Your Lady together with final
———indulgences for the terrible mess in your room if you shave your chest, groin, armpits
———and the hairs on your legs and arms
Did I forget something?
If so, you can shave that too and Our Lady will bless you with her rubber glove

Ayurveda forbids you to make fire by rubbing hot peppers against each other
But I say onto you: By rubbing cauliflowers, you’ll achieve even lesser results
Stay out of Your Lady’s recipes and she’ll cook you her heavenly lap

Body culture is not wellness
Beware of anything that stinks of culture and sweat
Think of rot and throw out marmalade from your menu!

Wet your finger and lift it to the skies
Take note of where lichens grow on trees
Lick Polaris from the night sky
Cherish azimuth in your head
Squint one eye and stretch out your arm with a thumb up
And you’ll always know your place in the world
You’ll never stray from the good Path

Beware of stress
Dispose of your nails and hair by cremation
Be worth shit!
Machines to machines, rust to rust

Gargle and spit out mucus
The seat of all diseases
Flush your nose with salty water
Laugh insolently between each nostril cleansed –
Prolong ad absurdum your wasted life
Watch Solaris
Concentrate on your solar plexus
Go to the solarium after lunch
Drink a concoction from African leaves
Pray to Your Lady and go to bed
Do not work out to be stronger while sleeping
Be weaker and weaker

Goodbye ill health!
Welcome wellness!

Be well!


Click here to read this poem in the original Czech

Tomáš Míka, 1959, Prague, Czech Republic. His original work includes books of poetry Destruction of Animals, 2003 and Journal of a Fast Man, 2007 and Text Messages, 2016. His book of short stories Und was published in 2005. He works as a translator from English, among the authors whose works he translated are Samuel Beckett (Watt), John Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress), James Hogg (Confessions of the Justified Sinner), Jack Black (You Can’t Win). He lives in Prague.

James Hopkin has lived in Berlin, Manchester, Krakow, Zagreb, Leipzig and several other cities, countrysides, and by-the-sea places across Europe. His short story ‘Even the Crows Say Kraków’ won the inaugural Norwich Prize for Literature. His critically-acclaimed debut novel, Winter Under Water, was published in 2007. His short stories have been widely published, anthologised and are frequently broadcast on BBC Radio, (including trilogies set in Dalmatia and Georgia) the latest in January 2016. Hopkin has won numerous awards for his fiction and has written non-fiction for the Guardian since 1999, including travel pieces, interviews and book reviews. He is a tireless promoter of European literature; he speaks German and Polish, has been a guest professor at the University of Leipzig, and has held writer-in-residence posts in Croatia, Georgia, and Denmark and, in Jan And February, 2017, in Prague, Unesco City of Literature.


Back to Table of Contents