On our recent tour sponsored by the Romantics
the Swiss mountains snubbed us, withheld their resplendence in mist. The locals cursed us in one language, invited us into their novelty shops in another. Cabinet maker, knife sharpener. Byron’s name in the fourth pillar of Chateau de Chillion or some wise-guy’s joke. Klaus’ house was four-hundred years, bubbled plaster and frigid. Lumpy bed, jars of marmalade on the staircase, and her Germanized English. Such bored politeness, standing in wet bath towels listening to her test the vowels. We didn’t stay long, skirted the Swiss Riviera, the casino, and central statue of Frank Zappa. Smoke on the water. We were so dramatic then, dashing from village to village along the jeweled lake. The panoramic train chugged through landscapes fit for hot chocolate commercials. Cows among gold and lavender- dabbled slopes, wooden A-frames. Middle-aged couples in sneakers, with camcorders, and gushing on cue, and us making out in first class. We mounted the stairs to the Madonna del Sasso grotto in Locarno. Bone coolness of the sanctuary, a nun reciting Hail Mary’s in Italian. Life-sized wood stations of the cross—Jesus behind bars, his watchful face. The cabbie hat you lifted from a bench, and later lost. His sorrow- sunken face. How the sin of the moment has become remote, embarrassing, nothing but dwarfed pretenses. How we loved ourselves for no reason then.