When I first came, pictures of me were taken without asking my permission. Whispers about my prettiness were heard among the clicking and snapping shutters. Plays, festivals, dinners, travel were common to me. And though I hadn’t any interest in them, men clamored for my laugh and attention. I was never so fickle and never let one lover touch me. The sun again will stand still, the light of the day I will behold once more before the footsteps of my ancient path will be soon forgotten. Seasons must go. No need to sulk, no need to smile. By winter’s dawn, the blaze of all the heavens may be once seen again in a solitary moment before my heart leaps into the memory of the unlit street. In time, nothing bitter or acrid or salty of me will remain, not even an aftertaste, nor the touch of cinnamon dust on the tip of my tongue will be by anyone twice remembered.
Most of my neighbors past had moved to Bécs. It seemed like a particularly empty place to go. After all, in December the capital is quite empty. Mozart’s little memorium lies in the grass or in the snow unnoticed in the park. And all the buildings with their inhabitants fled to the villages and towns outside the main must be even colder over Christmas, even with leather gloves on both hands. Boulevards would be more deserted than usual. I stayed in the meantime near the Elbe on one side of the nearby brook where a small wooden ferry pulled pilgrims from one side of the water to the other, watching the ferryman plying his almost silent trade. That was the work of a ferryman: awaiting travelers needing to move themselves from one edge of the land to the other without having all their belongings soaked. Aeroplanes soared overhead. Wayfarers from hordes in faraway cities sought their escape between one border and another. I would hum a folk tune, one that Liszt, who had fingers reaching across fourteen keys on a piano, had re-set. The old empire he came from had been quickly divided into a table-puzzle between other sovereign nations at hand, once it was swept away. I lay in the sloping grass of the shallow hills singing to myself memories of Arabia in the 1890’s many green summertimes ago.
We had always meant these things to be fun. And we had always meant these things to be extravagant. After all, we ourselves were fun and we were extravagant. If there had been fools to give our money to, we would have given our money to all the fools. And if we had been princesses, we would have given them all our jewels. There was nothing we would hide, and nothing we would not disclose. We went to market with our wallets open, our purses unstrung. One time, an archer among us, he had a quiver full of one thousand arrows, and he shot one thousand arrows directly into the heart of the Sun. The entire time he laughed, and was laughing. One of us, a dreamer, woke up laughing. “I dreamt a dream,” he said, upon waking, and then went back to sleep forever. The bankers banked. The looters looted. These were glorious times, and everyone did as he did. And everyone, too, did as she did. A seamstress among us, she sewed seams by night and day. The proprietor of a butcher shop, she cut with an ax bones and meat all day. Ah, these were glorious times indeed! Sometime a hard rain fell, and it was just that, nothing more: a hard rain. Since then, everything was mixed up. Since then, everything has been mixed up. Times and tenses askew, awry. . . .The pickpockets sell candy and trinkets on the corner place. The realtors herd sheep in the meadow. The priests sells bonds to large companies. The newspaper carriers collect extinct passenger pigeons in glass boxes, or pin the wings of butterflies back on white framing paper. The teachers peddle marbles and board games which of course nobody thinks of ever buying. The dancers fish coins out of wishing wells in this or that piazza. Some of us, who were the loners, we harken back in our minds to simpler times which we all still sometimes remember, chatting now about the old days gone, around campfires to our new found friends crouching with us there in the glowing dark.