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“Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul,)
Is it indeed toward your mate you sing?
or is it really to me?
–“Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” — Walt Whitman
You came to singing as a child, voice made
of light and air, rain and dust storms:
a little girl caroling and plain in the mirror,
small imitative bird, velvet snare of impulse
binding you to vision. Now, Puccini
at twilight: two voices rising and falling
in the depths of La Scala’s red brocade mouth.
Pinkerton and that princess Damrau,
together: in the background the pyre
of conquest. Butterfly dies for love beautifully;
at its apogee the moon shatters in her throat.
The critic next to you nods: Please, tremulous
diva die again—your hair a mane down your back,
the knife glinting in your small ivory hand.
You leave the opera replenished, arms
in your silk jacket swinging freely, clutch
with its rhinestone; the cheap single ticket
drifts away along the curb, into the river.
You do not see that the sidewalk is underwater,
that lamps glow at the bottom. In a trattoria
you drink a glass of forgetfulness; the stranger
next to you looks, looks away. Back out
to the street, you reorient yourself by the few
visible stars, unbind your hair; you walk quickly:
there is someone you know too well in
the shimmering windows. Placer y lagrimas,
pleasure and tears tonight: you retreat to your lair,
stripping yourself of that tasteful boutique suit,
those low-heeled dancing shoes: and then some
light rain within, a batik scrim of trees leaning out
of the past–ghosts of lovers only half-forgotten,
your own voice rising with unfettered
and unscored yearning that measure for measure,
cascades like jubilant water through the dark.
Copyright 2014 Jenne’ R. Andrews