PAUL POLANSKYPolansky currently resides in his native Iowa after living in South Bohemia from 1991 to 1994 and in Prague from 1995 to 1999. The following poems come from a manuscript currently seeking a publisher.




Although you can find Gypsy

hookers all over the country

(especially on highway 55 waving down German truckers)

the only safe place for them

is on Perlova street in Prague.

They hang out in Palmeras,

the non-stop bar

half-way down the block,

knowing they’re safe

from skinheads.

Around the corner

are the cops

who protect them,

take half their wages,

and get free sex whenever

they want it.

The Gypsy hookers

know I can’t afford their prices,

but the drinks in Palmeras

are cheap,

the view is free,

and in that bar,

I’m also safe

from skinheads.


I learned a long time ago

you can never go back

to the same whore.

Despite all those nice things

they say while you’re f*cking,

they never remember you.

But it was Valentine’s day

and I wanted to give a card to a Prague whore.

Make one of them feel

as if she had an admirer out there

because many do.

I went to Tesco.

Bought a red heart laced with white ribbon.

Then walked over to the Cocktail Bar

on Zitna where all these girls

from the Philippines sit in slavery.

For a change, I didn’t wait for the youngest girl to come out.

I took a woman who looked about thirty,

a woman who looked bored with life.

When I told her

I had something special for her,

she laughed

like all whores

who hear the same thing ten to twenty times a day.

While she put on my condom with her mouth,

I slipped the valentine

between the cheeks of her ass.

She automatically reached

for the house phone without

seeing what I had stuck there.

“It’s a Valentine’s card! ”

I yelled, grabbing her hand off the phone.

Her lips quivered, before she reached

behind her.



I met Anita one Sunday morning in Malostranska on the 22 tram.

I heard her speaking Spanish.

Introduced myself.

She was a black girl from the Dominican Republic

who had an overdose of Spanish blood.

I say “overdose”

because she was

like those Spanish women

who don’t take off

their gold crucifixes

to f*ck a man.

Not that I ever f*cked Anita.

But we talked about it, and a million other things

when we met on Sunday mornings

before she got off at the Castle

with her Cuban girlfriend

and the two minders

who didn’t know

what we were saying

because they spoke only Czech.

Anita’s dream was to work in Spain.

She asked about the King in Madrid.

I told her he liked to fool around too,

that women were his favorite pastime.

Anita whispered the craziest things in my ear,

but she never told me how to get in touch.

Then one Sunday, she wasn’t on the tram.

The minders were with two Korean girls.

I asked about Anita.

The men laughed.

Said she had finally gotten her wish.


Not all whores

work in a whorehouse.

Back in ’63

I knew a school teacher

in Wilson, North Carolina,

who lived across from a truck stop.

Whenever truckers

flashed their headlights

she’d walk across the field,

and f*ck for five dollars.

In Prague, I knew this

mother-daughter team.

They weren’t a f*cking team,

they just worked together

in a cowboy bar in Kobylisy

serving drinks, sitting on men’s laps.

They didn’t look alike,

but they f*cked alike.

They always told you

not to tell the other.

But they bought

a new car together,

from their tips.


I never met her,

but I know a lot of Gypsy men

who slept with her

when they were

fourteen, fifteen.

She’d prowl the parks

in her car,

offer them a ride,

then take them

to the Hotel Flora

in Prague 4.

My Czech relatives

always told me

you can never believe

what Gypsies say.

I thought their Holocaust

stories were true

because they didn’t know

each other,

yet gave

the same details.

But countless Gypsy boys

sleeping with Dasha

was too much

even for me to swallow.

Wherever I went –

Gypsy weddings,

funerals, parties –

I heard about Dasha.

The stories were so erotic,

I couldn’t forget them.

One day in London

I met a stateless Gypsy

who was head of the

Roma Refugee Center.

He had lived in Prague

until the 1993 citizenship law

declared he wasn’t legal

in the country where he had been born.

I asked him about Dasha.

“How did you know?” he asked. “I’ve never told anyone.”

When I smiled as if I knew

the whole story, he took out

his wallet, and showed me

the photos.


Literary critics still debate

Franz Kafka’s sex life.

Did he, or didn’t he,

make love with Milena?

No one disputes the stories

that Kafka f*cked

low-class whores

around Old Town Square.

I still wander down those

little alleyways off Celetna

wondering if some

of the old women

living in those shabby

one-room apartments

entertained Kafka

on his drunken forays.

What makes a man

look for a whore

after having

one drink too many?

What do we seek

that we can’t find

when we’re sober?