Saturday, March 31, 2012

63. Suns Set

Natalie Dessay
Le 50e Gala de l'Union des Artistes au cirque Alexis Grüss
le 21 novembre 2011
Photo: Yann Orhan

One day:
one fine day –
“Un bel dì”
your ankles start to get sore
after just a few hours
in rehearsal;

One day,
the high notes that were once
so easy
stick, become harder to attack
and you must slither, slide
around them
just to get up

One day:
you need one extra layer of make-up
just to hide the
just to erase the age
that is writ too clearly now;
in telecasts your skin appears
3 shades too light;
yes, tenors half your age
are your lovers once
again –

One day –
the long silences in the hotel
don’t seem so luxurious anymore;
you flip the scores
restlessly, the old ones
more so;
knowing you can’t get away with what
you used to,
that it is another that
vanishes from your singable repertoire once
again, the tessitura too high or
too much colouratura,
or just too damn

One day,
you sit in a busy American airport
realizing your two babies
are now teenagers
living in 2 distant countries
and that you haven’t
talked to either in at
least three

One day

you glance out at
the audience, but it is
night –
and no one realizes
how painful these stacatti
are becoming and how tired you
are after just the
third night of
mad scenes –

and wonder, as you sing the
Act I aria
if the pensive upward look you
do is
translating through the HD live transmission
the incredible regret you feel
on Thursday,
or your wandering mind on Saturday,
which has never before drifted
to dinner or how your
husband is doing back overseas,

your concentration, your enthusiasm is
scandalously stupid Eurotrash
productions, late
visionless directors hail a
frightening, new Era;
your face appears on buses;
audiences take high notes,
colouratura, phrases-in-one-breath
for granted; they do not even
hold it as a contest
anymore –

You are so tired
of trying when there is so much
resistance, so much upheaval.
The flurry of New York city is
frightening, emphasizing your
enhanced by the increasing
bareness of middle age.

It has been a long time since you
have last been at a
grocery store
you could be buying
plastic-wrapped Atlantic salmon
on a
Friday night like any
petite, dark-haired

One day –
as you rise creaking from bed
on a rare silent weekend morning
the instinctive urge to
vocalise is suddenly stilled;
your mouth forms the customary
“oohs” and “aahs” but
nothing emerges.
It is almost as if
the memory of previous conquests,
previous triumphs is best
left to the past, to
to the hallowed seats at the silent
La Scala

There is no way we can compete again
with youth;
when we have sung our songs
and our weary vocal cords
lie unused and stuffed away
under the socks in the
bedroom dresser,
we glance wearily out the
window of our own
home at last,
preparing for anonymity,
bidding farewell
to the Diva
that was.

Natalie Dessay et Charles Castronovo
La Traviata de Giuseppe Verdi
Festival d'Aix en Provence, 9 juillet 2011
Photo: Pascal Victor / Artcom Art

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

62. Senescence

In the dying light of day,
your face is as charmed as it was
the first day we met –
Wrinkles have not diminished
the twinkle in your eyes
or the hairs which glow golden in the light
as you raise your arms around me.
Crow’s feet and laugh lines
are mere ghosts of the joys we have
shared; that one there
must be from when we visited

A thousand romances we could have;
I could invent a thousand scenes
in which you feature, ageless.

I am here in the dying light of day,
an unseasonable chill
frosts my weary bones;
I have worked all my life
in a career where I have served
only others
and now must prepare
for fall.
I am cold,
so cold.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

61. Professing

I have too much to do deal with today:
unwritten poems to birth,
cue cards to make,
textbook readings,
finals to study

not enough time
to process this, to deal
with another emotion, another

Like an ink blot across the
pedestrian crosswalk
you’re walking leisurely with some
obsequious girl
semi-bald head bulbous,
swollen with veins and greyish -
God, this is what academia
has become?

I have beautiful things to write
things I need to put to
Italian phrases, operatic loves,
prophetic visions,

And though I am past,
having missed the chance
to run you over
I cannot forget that moment of
scratching at my brainstem
until I am compelled
to immortalize you.
You do not deserve even this,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

60. Arachnophobia

Tipping the napkin
Pizzeria logo,
spider and all
headlong into

Shivers roll in my skin;
there are spiders all over the ceiling
waiting to avenge their fallen

I have problems killing
creepy critters
with their eight legs,
scuttling all around, defying every
law of physics
                      sometimes hairy,
                      sometimes long,
they exert a strange sort of power –

Killing myself:
this is what I imagine each time.
Little me, crouched in a corner,
scuttling up walls,
down the bathroom
moulding –
evading the
Vulnerable, defenseless –
While we,
our empty lives,
carry on each day,
joyous in our dominance –
if probability had its way
I would be a spider too –

I would let you live too
as I would want to, scrambling
up these eggshell walls,
but I am afraid, I am

You hide in my cups,
dance in my dreams,
thousand eyes
they say killing spiders is bad

Monday, March 19, 2012

59. Taboo

There are certain things
we are not allowed to say,
certain things
of which
we cannot speak.

I say a great many

but certain things
I cannot, will not,
ever say.

These are the things
we carry in our heavy hearts,
staining the eggshell wall,
blurred with the dim,
half-hearted flicker
of a dusty lamp.

These are the things we whisper
to the deadened night,
when the children have gone to sleep
and the moonshine peaks through
the blinds

secrets -

Friday, March 16, 2012

58. Homebound

I, my simple meals:
shared with birds perching at the
Delicious fare, a fine wine;
there is Mozart in the
hall –

I am watching the
dying afternoon,
diaphanous as
watching the people scuttle
from place to place
on errands, playing,

No –
I am lying on my
neatly composed bed,
languishing like some fatal
Lady of Shalott:

If there is such a thing as destiny
I would be persuaded,
knowing that some of us
are doomed to imprisonment, despair,
jailed in unrelenting
while the rest are
smiling, dancing,
watching television
in the
downstairs den.

Evan Penny: Mask (1989)
Donald Forster Sculpture Park
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Photographed by Hanneorla:

57. Vernal yearning

There is copious sunshine –
like a toddler waking from an
afternoon nap, I blink: blearily.

Each year, as if for nature’s
Christmas, we wait all night, for
day, for sunshine!

Why, tell me: tell me!
Tell me –

Baring my long-since covered arms,
like some indecent bear,
lumbering out of hibernation
into this simple child’s world,
where a lithe flower or a
buzzing bee elicit
simple giggles.

There is nowhere to
indoors, we regard the children playing
I wish there was really such a thing as spring –
I have not yet had time to recover:

Evan Penny: Mask (1989)
Donald Forster Sculpture Park
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Photographed by Hanneorla:

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Astringent as the chill,
the smoke ascends
and smites the bleary eyes
from yonder hill:

Draw closer, frightened one;
the footsteps speed
from curiosity
into a run -

In horror, prim and stern,
the scene unfolds,
my gawking scolding what
the smell confirms;

Oh, tardy truants thus!
So comatose,
in view of all the street,

I feel it is my right,
my duty!  Yes -
to reprimand "this sort",
to set them right;

And yet - no words will come,
for out of shock
my bleak hypocrisy *
turns mute and numb.

We grudging brethren are
and share one tongue;
though speaking dialects,
seem not so far:

Escaping in his way
is bolder fun -
but my rebellion speaks
far past the day -

a little farther, still!

* This does not mean I smoke pot.

Friday, March 9, 2012

55. Sehnsucht

Out of the slant of window,
regarding fiercely;
the postman will not come!
It is Saturday.

Customs, duty, HST:
words jumble, clatter noiselessly;
meanwhile countless other packages
are likely similarly detained –

Mis-delivered to Thailand,
Taking the “scenic”

filling the emptiness with


I thought it would be easy
to condense, to distil all of it
into a person, into a Utopia
of sunlight; that citadel of
or in work, in
work of all kinds –


else we dwell in follies,
in goods reading
dead letters
we wrote ourselves
while we wait,
in suspension

Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer,
Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

Buy Jonas Kaufmann's album "Sehnsucht":