The year of suicides and the rotten boredom
of the bourgeoisie, the price of sugar rising
as lime trees thicken on the Ringstrasse.
Egret feathers in women’s hats, papers of hysteria.
Everything is drama and everything is wrong.
Garden peacocks huddle under dripping bushes
at the villa of Johann Strauss. Palatial rain falls
on the Renaissance colonnades. A personal advertisement
in the press—To my most beloved love: have you forgotten
me entirely? Absinthe and anti-Semitism, cravats
and loden coats. The brushes of Gustav Klimt smolder
on The Chariot of Thespis. Erotica and elongations,
women who want to kiss. At Wahring
the scientists exhume Beethoven’s bones.
Why hast thou lived? Why hast thou suffered? Mahler writes,
the price of sugar rising, and the capes of women
gleaming with sable instead of fox.
Gold braid, sideburns, Steeplechase and tea.
Everything is imperial, and everything is flawed.
In his cold apartment Freud broods about the oddities of sex
and the outrageous price of his cigars.
Snuff-stained ink blotters and Hugo Wolf, The Third Sonata
for Violin. A diamond chip of Venus impales the twilight
as the Crown Prince Rudolph and his teenage mistress flee
to the royal lodge to kill themselves. Then the morning after—
dogs barking across the grounds, ravens like pieces of storm
in the firs, the barons finally axing the bedroom door.
Coptic priests and black-clad Hasidim, Muslims in crimson fez.
The Papal Nuncio asks, in halting Latin, how many bullets?
so that he might pray over every place they left the flesh.
And the girl? She believed that she would live forever
in romantic legend. How quickly they erase her,
burying the scandal in the Cemetery of the Nameless.
Rudolph found at Mayerling alone
a hundred headlines say. Everything was hoped for,
and everything is gone. Gardenia and deception,
orchestrated grief. Black-sashed sentinels draw military swords.
Why hast thou lived? Why hast thou suffered?
Have you forgotten me entirely?
Telegrams and coachmen, carriages and flags.
The squadron of Hussars follow the Hungarian
National Guard. The air is an iron monsoon of bells.
And then, the break of protocol—have you forgotten?
a whispered Pater Noster
before the old man kisses the wooden coffin,
the Emperor father on his knees.
History, that stern mother
shakes her head at me,
sets down the broom
and leaves her debris to scold me.
No, not that one.
She leans across the kitchen table
to flip the pages of my book,
crumbs falling from her apron folds.
There. She points to a key passage
about the Battle of Sedan and Napoleon III.
Her finger smears the margin
of the Franco-Prussian War.
I nod long enough to make her go away,
then return to the short description
of the Paris siege, the starving people
eating the animals in the zoo.
I reread the one sentence about Castor
and Pollux, the beloved elephants
they shot for steak
until I surprise myself with tears.
Whose Side is God on?
in the city
Multiple Pushcart nominee Melissa Carl’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals, and magazines, both print and online, including Amoskeag: The Journal of Southern New Hampshire University, Melusine, The Freshwater Journal, The Broken Plate Review, cellpoems, CircleShow, Curio Poetry, Third Wednesday, In Posse Review, Off the Coast Magazine, Mouse Tales Press, and the anthologies American Society: What Poets See, And Love, Bigger Than They Appear, The Waiting Room Reader II, and Yesterday, I Will among others. Her most recent collection, Brutal Allure, was published in 2011. She teaches in York, PA where she resides with her husband, son, and dingo.