The night river calms me with its slow dirty movements. I walk home briskly, in a black baseball cap. I work at the fringes of the day. I write poetry in bed and criticism in the bath. Among my friends here, I have a man who calls me love names in four languages. Once, in a moment, I thought I wanted to die of his pleasure, but that was a wound speaking. The history of this place abounds with wounds. Mobs of vandals have ransacked the villas. A very rich man on his deathbed from a corrupt family who loves the arts was fed a medicine of powdered pearls.
The streets are named for German poets in my huge provincial Midwestern city. Dust whirls up from the tires of passing cars, lifting a veil over me, like Romantic longing. On Goethe, I want nothing more than to reach down and feel a lover’s big skull in my hands. On Schiller, lust subsides, among the wrought iron doors and grand steps, lined with hundreds of dollars of candles. Inside, patricians mingle in the high-minded friendships I desire for myself. About this, as so much else, the flowers in the window-boxes on Schiller are philosophical. Their arguments are convoluted, but concern the beauty of simplicity, freedom from need, and, even more often, the depredations of time. One fat peony speaks as if she were the Sybil: “Live with your century but do not be its creature.”