Admiration is the cousin of envy,
as I learned long ago in Austria.
I knew a girl from a village in the Tirol.
I don’t remember her face,
Except for the placid smile
on her berry red lips.
She was not beautiful, but pretty
in a Mägdlein sort of way,
"smelling of crushed daisies and sweat".
But her long, butter-yellow hair,
seemed to have fallen from the sun.
She wore a black, Dirndl vest
that hugged her torso, a white blouse,
and a long. striped, pink skirt.
Even her legs were beautiful,
With tiny, blonde hairs that glistened.
I wished I could be like her:
Simple-seeming, unaware, unquestioning.
I watched her stand on a rocky ledge,
On a little mound like a pedestal
That overlooked an green-blue alpine valley.
She was a poem or an imagined girl
From a fairy tale or an ad for Priumula.
She was a goddess escaped
from the the netherworld
of dairy barns and milking cows.
I thought that she might never return
there from her lofty peak at the world..
But another girl stood beside her.
A spartan sort with round glasses
And a face like a Pug dog.
She seemed to stand guard,
In a sexless, violent way,
Threatening those who might approach.
I fantasized about pushing her off the cliff,
Just to rid us of her presence.
The altitude was spinning my thoughts,
Wondering what would happen
To this Hummel Fräulein someday.
Would she follow the other youth to Vienna,
Smoke and drink espresso in a café,
Or come back to her alpine home
And milk goats while her children played?
The next day, as if still drugged,
I strolled across the bridge to Germany
And the river path to Freilassing.
There I bought a new, blue blouse
With a heart shaped neck
And brown, corduroy slacks.
It was the best I could do then
And Dirndls were not cheap.
So I spent the summer
As an ersatz Austrian,
No longer an American with jeans.
My freedom was almost euphoric,
Including dodging classes
About Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill,
Those overrated poseurs!
(Except for Mack the Knife.)
I even attended Mass at various cathedrals,
just to hear Mozart or Schubert dance
up in the arches with cherubs,
or in front of ancient, colored glass
in the gloom of medieval stone.
I accepted that The Tyrolean Girl
And her antique, sunlit style
Were as inaccessible as
Gentian and columbine, mist-shrouded
on high peaks wrapped in clouds.
I once ran to see some up close
And nearly passed out.
But knowing that, I felt their charm
Had descended from the heights
To entice us in the valleys,
With pink striped cloth, gold hair
And amethyst flowers.
They flee past us like time,
Swift as the rivers in Spring.