In November 1994 my friend Wendy and I flew to Vienna, with Niki Lauder’s airline. She had asked me to come for moral support, as she wanted to look at the houses where her parents had been born and lived. They were Jewish and had both left Vienna before the war, meeting in Manchester where they married and changed their name from Grünewald to Greenwood.
Wendy and I visited the Freud Museum together. My poem The Vienna of Sigmund Freud was awarded the second prize in the 2012 Marple International Poetry Competition. On the Saturday morning my friend went back to one of the houses and I went to the birthplace of the composer Franz Schubert. I expected crowds, but I was alone with a protective attendant.
During his short career, less than 20 years, Schubert composed a vast amount of music: over 600 vocal works, seven symphonies, piano and chamber music. He died in 1828, aged 31. My friend Wendy died in April 2000, aged 52. Litany for All Soul’s Day is one of Schubert’s best-known songs: Alle Seelen Ruhn in Frieden! All souls rest in peace!
The Vienna of Sigmund Freud
(after Miroslav Holub)
This is where they rein in Lippizaner horses
and Schnitzler and Klimt shocked
and Hitler studied art.
And here an emporium reflects the cathedral.
Here they debate the merits of Sachertorte
and mature women wear hats with feathers.
This is where Freud analysed the disturbed
and the distressed sat in his red waiting room,
this museum with a clean flag and frosted glass.
And here the U-Bahn stations are without graffiti.
Here the shoppers whisper silently
and pain starts when sounds die.
Red geraniums in window boxes
brighten the wooden balcony.
Scattered leaves around the statue
of a shy, naked girl, perched on the edge.
I’d planned a rain-soaked pilgrimage:
wind howling in the chimney. Imagined
creaking stairs, the shadows of birds,
old beggars in swirling fog.
On polished floorboards I glide past
a clear and orderly arrangement of
manuscripts, paintings and prints.
The shiny keyboard waits.
Now the sun lights up his portrait.
Elbow resting on books, he holds a quill.
Franz Schubert smiles past me
at this trim, suburban scene.