The Magic Ritual of Tactile Initiation

A Poem by Jan Švankmajer


The novice is isolated in a dark room
He has to leave his hands submerged in a black ointment
Meanwhile bandages from finely chopped stinging nettles and goose fat
are alternatively applied to his back.
The sole of his left foot is touching the surface of hot water
The sole of right foot the surface of cold water
After three days the feet swap
A hairdryer blows a stream of tepid air into his face
the penis is inserted into a scroll made of rolled up sand paper
and then bandaged
Knee caps are gently tapped with a golden hammer
The left arm is injected three times a day with a fine dose of mescalin
After a week of such preparation the novice is introduced to the workshop
of the great Tattooist, who proceeds to tattoo his enlarged thumb print upon his back
while he talks to him in this fashion:
Make that which is cool, warm, soft, hard!
Loose compact!
Rough creamy!
Injuring caressing!
And vice versa
Without sight noticing and being able to warn touch in time
Keep continually disrupting the utilitarian habits with disorientation,
mystification, panic!
Do not forget our whole body is one erogenous zone!
Do not straighten up crumpled bedsheets!
In winter kick off your covers
In August nights crawl under a duvet!
Do not hold masturbation in contempt!
Do not get the soles of your shoes mended!
Do not urinate before sleeping!
Be squeamish about everything but touch everything!
Love insects!
Exhaust yourselves!
Because only Touch that is freed of its utilitarian connections,
constantly coerced into experience and self realisation will, at a
given moment, cross the identification barrier of its existence, and
without noticing, will start to speak the language of a poet.

From Czech translated by Tereza Stehlikova

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: