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.
“You have to go all the way to Washington,”
he said, “to find decent statuary.”
“Oh, you can find one or two in almost every city.
Its founder, some general or admiral,
some animal that oddly represents
a metropolis that has cast out its animals,
or penned them up in zoos, put them on leashes.
New York has quite a few, Boston as well,
and Chicago, well it likes sculpture,
but spend half an hour in Vienna
and you are overwhelmed with statuary.
Maybe they have lower standards there,
or far more history, but I suspect it is
that they don’t rush about on the winds
of whim, despite our endless example to them.
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.