Calais to Dover | Jana Prikryl | Granta

Calais to Dover

Jana Prikryl

kent: But, true it is, from France there comes a power
Into this scattered kingdom . . .

King Lear, 3.1.30–31

The waves today great polyhedrons.
Through abstractions the ship makes its way.
Here on deck the entire scene is metal
and painted gray on top of the metal’s gray.
Word ‘clad’ keeps bobbing up, coinage of
the Thirties. Cladding means the special bond
between two forms that one may dominate.

A thing like that is strong until it’s brittle.
I didn’t want to sit inside, depressing
to populate the bar that serves Cold War
cocktails, the Samizdat, Mauerfall,
Desirable Refugee. The smoking section
defies basic mental function but still,
nobody keeps you from nonsmoking.

Down the way some suits lock eyes to cross-
Channel solidarity, which in certain
anonymous styles (Eurovision)
will linger for one generation.
The carpet is an atrocity
already inviting nostalgia.
We survived this too. The hits were terrible.

The feeling’s concentrated in the lounge
that strangers to their senses have returned,
we’re drifting to safe harbor.
Desirable worldview. And then out here
the only way to cope with the fresh air
is going fetal on a yoga mat.
I’m aware of whispers among the crew.

Jana Prikryl

Jana Prikryl’s latest book of poems, Midwood, will be published in the UK the summer of 2024. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Born in the former Czechoslovakia, she lives in Brooklyn and is the Executive Editor of the New York Review of Books.

More about the author →