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The Hotel Belvedere


A June day under the Jungfrau.
Near the railway that brought her here,
an old woman sits on a bench.
She isn't facing the Jungfrau
but the Hotel Belvedere

which has, as its name implies,
a beautiful view of the Jungfrau,
a name for what she had been
when she last saw it, maybe,
on her honeymoon.

She regards the hotel intently,
studies what I assume
were the windows of their room.
Was it hard to come back alone,
hobbling on that cane?

No, not alone: her husband
and daughter (or granddaughteró
surely this couple's offspring
can't be very young)
have arrived with ice cream cones,

inverted mountains where snow
is piled on the widest end.
They make the most of that pleasure
before, like a magic trick,
a tripod's pulled from a backpack.

Steady as you go
is what the granddaughter says
as she pulls the old woman up
and the three of them, like a tripod,
lean to make one shape

that peaks on top, like the Jungfrau.
But the hotel's the backdrop.
The camera's timed to snap
at a smile, and another smile;
new pose, and it snaps again.

Even the staring stranger
who has no need to invent
their story is distracted
from the majesty of the Jungfrau,
and heeding gestures meant

to yield up little grandeur:
the acts of a granddaughter
who, when she's old, will tell
of the long journey they took
back to the hotel,

the origin of what mattered
to a few vanished people.
There was ice cream; and a view
of the snowcapped Jungfrau,
which is nowhere pictured.


Mary Jo Salter

The Common

Issue 13


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