Once in Vienna
by Ronald Baatz
I don’t want to know this stranger’s story.
I want this stranger to remain an enigma to me.
I don’t want to know him any more than
I want to know the date and place of my death.
Doubtless this stranger has many stories to share.
I can tell by the ancient shoes he is wearing,
and by the way he walks as though his feet are being
mercilessly pinched and he doesn’t expect to live much longer.
I know those shoes, I’ve seen them on other men, scared men,
men that women have no patience for, and who can blame them.
In the end women’s feet are stronger than men’s feet.
Women’s feet live longer. Men’s feet die from an assortment of
stupid actions, like incessantly kicking rocks into other men’s feet.
Just the other day I saw this happening in a local park. Sometimes
what saves a man is simply the shine he puts on his shoes.
Well-shined shoes make all the difference in the world.
Vienna wouldn’t be Vienna without the numberless shiny shoes
that have existed in this city from one century to the next.
Once in Vienna I had drinks with a lovely woman
in a cafe that had small tables and large mirrors.
It was our one and only meeting during which we
unburdened ourselves of life’s gravest concerns.
Our conversation took up most of an evening.
Only when the city lights finally took ravenous
possession of the streets did our words
finally touch upon death, and the loss of all
that is beautiful in this woeful existence.
Such was our mood, such were the words required.
Sensitive frail words for sure, but nonetheless
capable of extinguishing infinite universes at
any given moment, or so the wine seemed to imply.
The wine death so skillfully kept bringing to our lips.
Death, by far the most dangerous of strangers.
Death, who stalks you from the day of your birth.
Death who wants to kill you out of sheer jealousy
over how much you love life, even the fleetingness of it.
Death, who wants to kill you for no other reason
than the fact that you shun
its eternal love for you.
IMAGE: Vintage travel poster, “Vienna via Harwich twice a day” by Frank Newbould. Prints available at Amazon.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ronald Baatz lives with his wife Andra and their cat Mooche in Troy, New York.
One thought on “Once in Vienna by Ronald Baatz”
I love this poem, love the way it shambles, ambles, by association, love its insights, its delight in being, in a word the poem. Thank you for it.