The Summer House

The Danube glitters and toils 
just beyond the walnut trees. 
The Great Writer sits at ease 
among blooms and disciples.

A garden with an old man — 
younger men drinking his wine; 
his voice is slow and benign, 
the others pause to listen.

When he has nothing to say
he smiles, and sniffs a pink rose 
that straggles near his nose. 
Sometimes he closes one eye.

His wife, in her painting-smock, 
serves us hors d'oeuvres and tidbits. 
She bustles about, then sits 
to chatter and have a smoke.

How idyllic, how humane!
I think, testing the thought: —
for such scenes are dearly bought 
when foreign troops ring a town.

Betrayals, maybe, and lies 
earned them a peaceful old age; 
chewing lox I try to gauge 
the character of each face.

But I don't know the language, 
and they're all strangers to me. 
Everybody looks guilt-free, 
sunlit near the water's edge.

I included, it must be,
as I stare at the old man
like some homage-heavy fan 
silenced by proximity.

Calmed by thoughts that I too wear 
the double-dealer's false face, 
I begin to like the place, 
and move out from my corner.

With the interpreter's help 
I talk of Art in the West 
for a charming poet-guest 
who downs vodka at a gulp.

Copyright © 1978 by Tony Connor. Appears courtesy of the author.