Tuesday, June 21, 2005

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The good good girl

I think poems are always "autobiographical" - but this one is coming right out of my first professional life so does that make it more about "me" than my first blog-poems? Posting here for / to myself certainly raises some interesting [for me, nu] questions. Such as - do diva "good girls" always have to die? The only way you don't get killed off is if you're playing/singing an ingenue who ends up belonging to a man - mostly a tenor but maybe a baritone. Active, "lively" women evidently only come to a good end if their endings are final -- unlike old soldiers ["who never die" as the old song says, bla bla] ...

The good good girl

The diva’s not rebellious; she always sways nicely

at the end of the opera for bows with her ensemble
and holds the hands of her tenor, her baritone,
quite properly behind the beaming hot footlights

that sear and blind and always twinkle
like some nutty demon with too many eyes;
when she bows and curtseys and shows a bent neck

you can’t see if she clutches at her tenor’s fingers
and tries not to stagger; you can’t see she’s held
hard for the next time in case she doesn’t want

to die again; you can’t see if she thinks she knows
she’s not the tortured star in real life and this is
just pretend; and you can’t tell if she wonders

if these hysterical shouting sobs (brava! brava!)
after her last cadenzas always mean the audience
wants her dying to never never stop;

but for her solo bows, all alone in front of the long
hard curtain she’s always polite anyway,
inclining her head with that smile

like a little geisha, not just for Madame Butterfly –
after all Gilda, Traviata, Lucia, Antonia, Manon
and even Salome all have to die too –

but for you, personally, as if she knows
such an insistent dying and dying
with no bullets

is probably not your fault
and she’s giving you the benefit of the doubt
for your painful, held but silent breaths

during the fireworks of all her endings;
she knows when her breath gets stopped
you virtuous ones in your plush seats

are sort of sad and after all what can you
as an individual do and she also knows
you’re having a good even lovely time

enjoying your own marvelous empathy
for operatic dying but she’s not holding it
against you for she is always charitable

and so she stays nicely inbetween for you,
not real, not a ghost either, mascara-
eyes wide to show she can still see, a single-

gowned petitioner not quite headless, stretching out
one hand as if to plead for some more life while
she graciously bends her other arm

into a little circle for all the flowers; the bargain is
you music lovers call her name
so she’ll know it’s for her and not for death

and no wounds will be torn open
by her to bleed in public;
thus there’s absolutely nothing up there

in front of the curtain to stain
the evening’s sturdy entertainment
and the diva’s not rebellious -

she always sways nicely.

-- puah

At the table

"There's a certain tenderness in bananas"
(Mercy, Esther Altshul Helfgott)

When the walls pray down a blessing
all of a sudden without any annunciations
or angels or even the sun coming out
with some special brightness for breakfast

you weren't expecting much more
than clearing the table and now
the table's gleaming, the milk
whiter than it was before; the spoons
stretch out silvery, strong enough to show
your face lifting, surprised; your two
almost empty bowls are so round

they embrace each last piece of fruit; the book-
shelves swell fuller, their books' bindings
benevolent, as if they're noticing
him, too, his face calm, serene as he clears his throat
again over what he's noticing, the mercy,
the prayers, this room.

- puah