My sons and I are like some wine,
the dead have already bottled.

William Mathews

Why is it so easy to love the cities of the dead?
To walk streets named after trees
that no longer grow, or animals
long chased from the memory of wilderness.
Why do I relish the sound of wheels
over cobblestones, laid down by those
names preserved on tombstones?

Budapest fills the mind with a darkness
reserved for moments of beauty, the senses
overload with the possibilities of the past.
An ancient castle squats above the Danube,
pregnant with phantoms, gift shop cash cows.
At night it reaches toward green spotlights
like a stone sapling.

Everywhere are the dead, their faces fill
museums, their likeness is sculpted into
those watchmen in the open spaces of parks.
They are the only people left, so many hours
after dawn. As silent as the mid-day residents,
who shuffle along, with no words for strangers.

All of these landmarks, these stories
and these monuments hold back the floods
of the voiceless swarming dead. They remind
me to tread lightly in the company of loss.
They are the fresh earth that covers the grave.

I cannot feel their footsteps behind me,
but hear their songs, the lullabies
of trapdoor spiders to their prey.
When a wrinkle appears in the mirror
they follow me, their dirge erupts
from the coiling of mattress springs.

I sit in a park straddled by cathedrals,
surrounded by a marble army of men.
Statues stare down, hands on hips,
in that final eclipse of stone over blood

My gaze falls on two pigeons, bathing in a fountain.
They are alive, and they hold mystery in their movements.
I decide I will no longer spend my travels sightseeing...

History is a burden the dead bare.

cash cow
Danube River
Budapest, Hungary
Buda Castle
trapdoor spider
William Mathews
St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest