How Not to Lie


prague_street2Alexei Tsvetkov calls Prague “a place where you wait for something to happen.” It’s from there he wrote this dispatch on the occasion of his recent (somewhat permanent) departure. It’s a meandering, dreamy piece drifting between nostalgia and a hard-nosed hope. For twelve years, a fifth of his life, Tsvetkov had planted roots in this, the city of Kafka, the city of falcons and sparrows. Tsvetkov inexplicably quit writing poetry years ago, and though he went to Prague looking for something, it was never quite his home. But he says it gave him back his poet’s voice, just as inexplicably as whatever took it away. Tsvetkov probes this long silence as well as his recent sudden coming back into poetry. He only prays he’s not “a prizefighter crawling out of retirement about to be beaten back” into some dark corner. Why, in his view, did the faucet turn on again? It occurred to him, he explains, that writing poetry “is the only way I know how not to lie.”

Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →