"Ach, Wien"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Oct. 28 2008 2:30 PM

"Ach, Wien"

1803

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Rita Dove read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

The truly great cities are never self-conscious:
They have their own music; they go about business.
London surges, Rome bubbles, Paris promenades;
Dresden stands rigid, gazes skyward, afraid.

Vienna canters in a slowly tightening spiral. 
Golden facades line the avenues, ring after ring
tracing a curve as tender and maddening
as a smile on the face of a beautiful rival. 

You can't escape it; everywhere's a circle.
Feel your knees bend and straighten
as you focus each step.  Hum along with it;
succumb to the sway, enter the trance.

Ah, sweet scandal:  No one admits it,
but we all know this dance.

Former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove received the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Her latest book publications are Sonata Mulattica and The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry.