What the heart is like – a poem by Miroslav Holub

Today, my friend Khalid Mir told me rather casually that he had been reading poems by Miroslav Holub. I had heard his name; and when K sent me this poem, I could not resist posting it here. Have read it again and again. For sometimes, I tell myself similar lines – of course in a highly unpoetical fashion. Yesterday, I tweeted this verse from Ghalib: “Meri kismat mei gham gar itna tha. Dil bhee ya rab kai diye hote”. Indeed many different ways to understand the heart and the one below is unique for its gritty imagery as well as playfulness.

Officially the heart

is oblong, muscular,

and filled with longing.


But anyone who has painted the heart knows

that it is also


spiked like a star

and sometimes bedraggled

like a stray dog at night

and sometimes powerful

like an archangel’s drum.


And sometimes cube-shaped

like a draughtsman’s dream

and sometimes gaily round

like a ball in a net.


And sometimes like a thin line

and sometimes like an explosion.


And in it is

only a river,

a weir

and at most one little fish

by no means golden.


More like a grey




It certainly isn’t noticeable

at first sight.


Anyone who has painted the heart knows

that first he had to

discard his spectacles,

his mirror,

throw away his fine-point pencil

and carbon paper


and for a long while




— Miroslav Holub, trans. from Czech by Ewald Osers

* “Miroslav Holub is a scientist by vocation and considers his poetry a pastime…” Read more here

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