Walking through the art gallery,
she frequently pauses to look
at paintings of couples in a bar
or a cafe, engaged in conversation.
I tell her they seem sad, as though
whatever romance they had
has waned, they having grown
apart, this a parting of sorts.
She laughs and says that I mistake
wistfulness for sadness, men
so often do, and adds they are
lovers falling ever deeper in.
She takes my hand gently, with
a look I might have deemed sad,
but knowing better. I realize
that I, too, am continuing my fall.
We were walking around Vienna, Wien,
the river cruise boat arriving early,
dropped off into the city center, told
we had precisely two hours to wander,
or we’d make our own way back,
and risk missing lunch and the formal tour.
We wandered, following instructions,
looking in vain for a café where we
could get an Austrian cappuccino, and perhaps
a pastry for which the city was famous,
even though we swore off deserts, but
before noon it could be still breakfast
and well within our supposed rules.
After several wrong turns we ended up
the Schauflergasse, still searching when
we heard the rhythmic clopping of hooves
and stepped quickly from the path
of the regal white stallions, as they
proudly pranced by back to their stables.
We asked the rider in the last rank where
we might find a café and pastry,
and he shouted back at us, “After
seeing us, Vienna has nothing more to offer.
We did find a café shortly after
and sharing an order of powidltascherl
and sipping our melange, we begged
to differ with the Lipizzaner rider.
Next week we will walk along the beach
and periodically stare out on the ocean.
The waves will wash in and out, and one
will look much like the last and the next.
If we get out early enough, perhaps we will
sit outside a café across the road from the beach
and drink our wet cappuccinos and eat our bagels
while watching some 20-something
perform yoga poses on the sand, poses that we
can remember, uncertain how our bodies
ever assumed those postures, certain
to do so again would cause breakage
that would put medicine to an unfair test.
We watch the elderly drivers, question
why they still have licenses to drive, and
to the extent possible, avoid looking in mirrors.
The little girl-women
pile onto the train
pillows and stuffed animals,
all they will soon leave
in the rooms of childhood.
In the train’s café, Gerald
welcomes us back
his “established customers,”
he says to all, as we sit
beneath the wide awning
that is his smile,
sipping the much
The river, flowing
through the heart
of the city never
pauses to note
the cafés and shops
lining its banks.
in the wine bar
look out over
the river’s waters
but can not
imagine the sea.
Among them, river,
man and woman
a thousand stories
will go untold.
You are surprised when the young man
approaches you, his saffron robes
a bit faded, his sandals more
worn flip-flops, his smiling face
almost too happy for a cool morning
on the rough pavement of a street
in Vienna, cafes pressing the curb.
He isn’t begging, not like at home, at least,
but he does bow and offer a plastic
amulet, and you a few euros in exchange,
as much out of guilt as charity,
but cognizant that this is likely
just another scam, there is no Temple
being rebuilt in Myanmar, no monks
chanting your favor as the stupa rises.
Later, as night sets in, back on the boat
and heading up river, you think you see a man
sitting lotus on the shore, smiling at you,
saying, “it is all intention, and yours
was honorable,” as you palm the amulet
in your pocket, the same one that now
sits on your desk in the corner
where you keep careful eye on your karma.