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John Wagner


Viennese Café: The Man of Letters (Wiener Café: Der Litterat) by Moriz Jung

In Palo Alto, I bought a book of poetry,
Then stopped and got a crème brûlée gelato
At Penguin’s ice cream store. On the tin table
Outside, I read “Traveling through the Dark”

By William Stafford. The anthology was old,
Used, down to four bucks fifty, the pages dank
With time and turning, but the ink
Still crisp and black as print can be.

The story goes: A deer dies by the side
Of the road, its body cold but its belly warm
With foal. The driver, his car’s taillights red

With caution, but its engine warm, impatient
To be gone, knows no life can come of this.
So he rolls the carcass down into the canyon.

A sliver of brûlée dripped on the page
Of my book. I scooped it up with my plastic spoon,
Leaving a subtle stain on the ancient page.
Time and text will swallow it, unfazed.

I closed the book and opened Car and Driver,
Read “US Deer Kill on the Road
In 2021: 1.3 million,”
A number worth recording and reporting,
But not worth what just came from Mr. Stafford—
His magnitude of one will count for more.


About the writer:
John Wagner’s work has been published in The Lyric, Blue Collar Review, Long Island Quarterly, Long Islander, and The Round Magazine. He holds a PhD (ABD) in creative writing from University of Denver and has been a teacher at Providence College and a development director for a wide variety of organizations, including Loyola Marymount University, the Denver Symphony, and Boulder Community Health. John enjoys golf, traveling, and fundraising for a variety of nonprofit organizations.

Image: Viennese Café: The Man of Letters (Wiener Café: Der Litterat) by Moriz Jung (1885-1915). Woodblock print. No size specified. 1911. Digitally enhanced by Rawpixel. By free license.

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