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(updated 12/27/11)

    Havel

    A hotel in Bratislava

    On a concert day.

    The evening will be televised,

    Live!

    Vaclav Havel and his fellow dissidents will come tonight.

    They are driving down from Prague.

    The hotel phone rings at last and I jump

    Only a little jump, but the chair falls over

    Me, "Hello?"

    A voice, "Hyello. Hmmm. Dis is Havel. I am in Lobby. Hmmm. Very myenny police."

    My room fills with dissidents

    All wrapped in cigarette smoke

    Havel looks like a kid.

    He is smiling a humorous, pleased smile.

    Live Television?

    We agree to make mischief.

    Havel speaks syllables into my cassette recorder

    I write them out in phonetics on scratch paper.

    The words say

    "I'd like to welcome to this evening's concert

    my good friend Vaclav Havel!"

    In Czech.

    I with an earpiece in my ear

    and my notes

    I will slowly repeat the syllables into the microphone.

    But first

    "More mischief?" I ask

    "Yes, yes. More mischief!"

    We decide he will carry my guitar to the entrance of the hall

    And we will tell the police he is my road manager.

    He will hand it to someone else and we will all lock arms to get him to the

    relative safety of the balcony, in the middle of the crowd.

    "More?"

    "More mischyef. Hmmmmm. Dere is guy, hmmmmm, singer named Ivan Hoffman.

    He lives here in Bratislava Hmmmmmm

    Cannot sing in public for many years."

    "Wonderful!

    Tell him to bring his guitar."

    You can feel it in the air

    The unrest,

    The undaunting feeling of

    "change is gonna come"

    The people will be unstoppable now.

    They wade forward

    Into the tide

    As it sucks itself out to sea

    Gathering strength

    For the coming storm

    While the spotlights beam and dance on the crowd

    I say my little piece and gesture in a tall wide arc to the balcony.

    "...to my good friend Vaclav Havel!"

    And the crowd explodes.

    The officials cut the sound off.

    So I stand there facing upwards and sing

    Over the crowd

    "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"

    Without a microphone,

    And the hall goes silent

    As that song soars up and seeps into his soul

    And stays there forever.

    That's what he's told me anyway,

    Over the years when I have gone back to visit and chat,

    In the theatre where the new constitution was written

    By poets and writers and mathematicians,

    All wrapped in cigarette smoke

    Or in the palace

    In your office

    Heavily decorated with grand gifts

    From grand people of the world

    And where the statue of the Golden Lady

    Looks on when you perform your presidential duties

    Signing things and answering the phone...

    And you are both

    All wrapped up in cigarette smoke.

    There is one room in the palace

    Cloaked in gloom.

    Exactly the way the Communists left it.

    Dismal

    Ugly

    All wrapped up in meanness.

    After the storm,

    After the victory,

    After the lights of the fireworks dim,

    No one has slept

    When the dawn comes in

    There is a shiver of disbelief as the sun comes up on a new world

    The silent ones, like moles, come up from their pitch black warren

    Squinting at the sun

    "You see there?" They say, pointing, "The risk takers!"

    You knew there would be no real change

    Without the risks,

    And you took them all.

    I'm so glad you went on smoking

    After the doctors told you to quit,

    You loved it so!

    The Dalai Lama will agree

    You'd had the ten thousand sorrows

    It is time for the ten thousand joys.

      - Joan Baez, December 22, 2011


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