I watched the winter light die from the bridge, the sky a sinking empire's battleship, ice floes' jagged edges clink their cold toast to a stilled Danube.
Johann Strauss would have committed himself to Wagnerian depression on a night just like this; streetlights sputter matchstick desperation relinquishing desperate light, shadow-glaciers crawl the alleys in deafness: Beethoven's lament - Vienna chilled in encroachment of a Russian winter.
I stand, stiff gloves on cold iron, snowdrifts slither the streets, ghosts coalesce in the city's soot, strangers' stares shuffling into the snow-muffled distance, disappearance achieved. Day dies like the century, like the empire once taught to the teachers' teachers in their youth.
I couldn't find my old friends here, their dimly remembered faces didn't match the lifelessness of their eyes or their stooped forms, and in darkness that reminds of my father's black uniform, hopes of memories fail, anyway.
A stranger, returned, my winged feet trail rubble of the Ringstrasse and the Hofburg, Emporer Franz Josef's ghost evicted, the righteous flight of angels on cathedral ceilings forcibly interrupted by the harsh flight of metal, our century's reconcilement of God and brutality leaving too little.
My grandfather repainted the frescoes after the war, the nation's decade-long scaffolds are history too now. I imagine his hand must have shivered like mine, painting on cold nights like this.