March 2023 Poetry Feature

By Richard Michelson

It was essential, Einstein stated, that he bring his violin
to Berta Fanta’s salon on Prague’s Old Town Square.
It is 1912, four years until Relativity, and six before 
the first wave of the Spanish flu will kill, among the 
500 million infected, the painter, Egon Schiele, already
despondent over the death, three days earlier, of his lover,

Edith, and their unborn child. Painting his pregnant lover 
the day before her death he could already hear the viola
and mournful bassoon of Mozart’s Requiem Mass. Ready
now to sketch himself dying, he gazes into the small square
of his shaving mirror, and recalls how he first entered the
Vienna Academy of Fine Arts at age sixteen, even before

his initial shave, no younger student accepted before
or since. He died, never to know he’d won that spot over
the seventeen-year-old Adolph Hitler, who’d later loathe
“degenerate art” and “physicist Jews,” moving to Berlin
to pursue politics, aborting both brush and pen. The square-
root-of-time displacing millennia-of-atoms is music already
usurping Einstein’s brain as, nodding to Max Brod, he readies    

his violin under his chin. The pianist, who already has four
of his 83 books penned to literary acclaim, looks squarely 
into the eyes of his closest friend, Franz Kafka. Brod loves 
his quiet companion’s unpublished scribblings, which violate 
all of fiction’s conventions. He had offered Franz absinthe

for courage before inviting him to Berta’s if he’d recite the
story about a transformation into vermin.  Yet, rising to read
to his fellow Jews, even Kafka cannot conceive of violence 
so extreme that each present will be dubbed a cockroach. For 
now, though, let’s leave these imaginative culture-lovers
in paradise; and in a Kafkesque absurdity of E=MC squared,    

time travel to British Columbia where we’ll reappear squarely 
inside a brothel owned by Bavarian born Friedrich Trump. The-
oretically viable, we can locate the villain who, full of self-love,
emigrated at sixteen to avoid the military draft. He has already 
planned a move to Queens, where he’ll die five months before
Schiele of the same deadly flu, his atoms still infecting us via  

his grandson’s love of Hitlerian speech; even Kafka cannot square
anti-alien taunts with Melania’s Einstein-visa violation. I pray Thee
Lord, a fevered Mozart pleads; forgive me, forget me, I am done for.