The boy who bows the violin is nervous
and the notes seem to drift and quiver
in the snow outside, just begun to fall.
The Slav at the piano curls in smoke and his fingers
pounce across percussive fodder. I smile.
Save for them, alone in this half-light,
I drift across the boulevard, in awe,
before the burned-out building, its twenty stories
black and yawning like an unhealed wound or a voice
that no longer has the gift of scream.
The stuff of jazz and standard melodies.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world …
The next day I walk from the rebuilt marketplace,
from the plot where the mortar splashed
into the throng and cut its jagged path through their lives
—those, that is, who lived—to the Latin Bridge,
to stand where the lunatic named Princip stood
and put the bullet through the Archduke’s heart.
He changed the world. The imprint of his footsteps
is erased. But everyone knows.
Here, in the half-light of snow
and fog, the totem in four languages
is like a warning at a crossroads:
May Peace Prevail on Earth.
Where but in
this country of last things
could you expect to find such surreal bliss?
Here, in the half-light of the corridor
a madman beats himself, fiercely,
rhythmically, with a switch. Our eyes meet and he
seems to know another half-wit when he sees one.
Or maybe not. What should I say? I am
the paralytic stunned in the bathtub—and the water
running. Bludgeoned of feeling, I could
spread my arms to the sweet earth and cry: Behold
the human metronome! Keeping time with memory,
he seems more sane than we…