In an Obscure Park in Budapest

Into an obscure park in Budapest
I go because the blackbirds called me.
One called, rather. Another shuffles in the dust
for a last tidbit before night.

I try to identify what pierces my heart.
The one who sang, sings
“Remember when you left your heart here, long ago?”

I say, “It wasn’t me.” The singer shrugs.
The one who shuffles makes a sign in the dust
only I will recognize, from one time only.
Oh. It was. It was.

The Horde

If I were an army I could keep on going,
oh, who knows how far?
Maybe the thickening blue in the distance
is a range of hills.
Perhaps not even that would stop me.
I’d cross the bent rivers and change their names
to the names of rivers left behind, giving the illusion, anyway,
of standing still.
Vain and wain, I’d carry the old life with me.

This is how the great realms come.
You get started, and nothing stops you.
Barriers you overwhelm like the spring tide.
The burghers wringing their hands before their shops,
the prelates waving crucifixes before
their statues’ white eyes,
all yield a certain satisfaction,
a confirmation that you have made a difference.

Think of your daughter in her patched dress
with the all the princes of the world to choose from.
Think of the generations opening the histories
with a shiver, passing over to the next slight thing.
Think of those cringing at your name, and of those smiling.
Mark them on the same side of the ledger.

Beside the Duna

Don’t you imagine what the boys could find here
digging beside the Duna
flowing so long through so many quarrelsome cities?
Stones struck from the diadems
when the high place fell:
carnelian, bloodstone, jasper,
lapis lazuli in the deep
where it was almost overlooked.
Some are surely lost forever.

Oh, that is not all. The boys begin to rummage
with their backs to each other, mantling and secret.
They realize how the mud might yield yet up
iron, obsidian, diamond with its unanswerable edge.
They remember now the grandmother tales of
the sword that fell into deep waters, waiting
for the right hand to wake it, the hero
with heart of flint, the hero with breath of steel.

The Elizabeth Bridge

To the marriage of the span and the water
she does not commit quite fully.
Her great piers hold her above.
Pavement links her to the east and west.
Pass over she says. The traffic does.
But she is speaking to herself.

It is by a courtesy of speech—bridge is not mentioned
without river—that steel and wave are chiefly wedded.
She would change that if she could.
It is not as though she were a tunnel
or a great fish bathing in him,
nosing into his secret places, unable to live without.

Mountain and plain she says,
excluding him when possible, darkened and departing.
Better she forget that every generation or so,
his longing can no longer be contained.
He gathers his tumultuous rains, rises,
determined, this time, to take her in.

In the Departures Café

Am I right, I wonder, in arriving so early
for a flight that is yet hours off?

The air beyond the café windows
is limpid, light blue in the center,
but, at the far edge, undefinable,
perhaps from fire, or from the interference of
deep forests still haunted by aurochs.

The white planes nudge confidently
among the dangerous gods.
I will be one of them.
Perhaps I have arrived early that I might
monitor the boundary between blue and undefinable,
to note subtle changes, the spare efflorescence
that might suggest this is not a day for travel.

Or perhaps it is, even against the omens, granted
a bold captain, a destination that the Fates,
   have not foreseen, my own heart emboldened
by certain years of not falling from the clouds aflame.
   It doesn’t matter as much as you think
where you meet the tumult head-on.

Deep breath, then.
Today I leave anything behind. You name it.
Today I say yes to all. Put your
hand on the stick there. Pull back. Ascend.

Three Views from the Basilica of a Warrior Saint Budapest


The effect is so beautiful we must labor to recall
the various slaughters it commemorates.
Szent István gleams in white stone under his white crown.
Ladislaw regards his upraised sword as though
he had just at that moment realized it is,
from certain angles, a cross.
Exhaustion is necessary for the opening of certain doors,
the crossing of certain thresholds. God the Father
in the center of His dome is sustained by warrior saints.
The basics of construction say it:
red marble upholds green marble
as fire and accumulated gore
uphold the habitable world.
The symbolism is almost certainly unintentional.
Try to remember:
all endeavors are brought to loveliness in time
All is remembered as it was meant at some point
at the flowing, at the full, before it all began to turn.


From the dome you might discern the maze of distributaries
at the mouths of Duna, white with shoals of waterbirds.
All those miles.
All those busy, odd-domed river towns.
All that. Three languages away.
I struggle with the one I’m in the midst of.
I can say “entrance” and “exit,”
but like the river, have no word for “here.”

“Go,” I can whisper to the goddess
flowing under the Elizabeth Bridge,
“Go there and arrive from there.”
“Abide” is not in either of us.


You are having coffee and mineral water.
The shade of a minor park cools what is already cool.
A tiny plane tree sapling sprouts between the paving bricks,
offering itself—should all this pass away,
the café, the museum, the domes glinting Hapsburg gold,
the people waiting for the tour bus—
to make a world as it once was:
a deep forest, and at the end of it
the wide plane with its rumor of horsemen.

Little tree, I tell it, I am with you.
I will look in this spot should I come again.
Pest with its bright lights was the lair of bears.
I think such things will come again.
We are trying too hard. We cannot be sustained.
I get a second coffee, while it might still be had.