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On the Death of a Coloratura

Ohime, sorge il tremendo fantasma e ne separa!
Qui ricovriamo, Edgardo, a pie dell’ara.
Sparsa e di rose!
Un armonia celeste, di, non ascolti?  *

“Il Dolce Suono”— “Mad Scene”, Lucia di Lammermoor

.For R.B.


Someone is weeping

In a churchyard in Geneva

At a beloved’s headstone.

Her song is everywhere

But she, the body of love

Is gone.

He pulls the satin-edged twilight

Over his head–

At the end

Reprising her Covent Garden


She touched his face:

Quickly, amore,

There is one with lilies

Of the valley

In her hair, at the gate.


After the memorial mass

Bach cascades

From the cathedral

He returns to the chalet;


Dusk mutes the patina

Of the mahogany piano.

A belated bouquet

Of blood bright roses leans

From the shadows.

Some phrase of hers

Reaches for him, too faint

To hear:


The blind doves of his hands

Flutter through the cupboard

Looking for oolong,

The Limoges teapot,

With its chipped spout-

Even now its replacement

In the freight, swaddled in excelsior

From Paris.


It was a beautiful life

He thinks, ‘ne regrette ‘rien—

Working off his wedding band

Wrapping it in a silk handkerchief

Redolent with Madame Rochas

Tucking it in the top drawer

Of a cedar-lined chiffonier


The Times rustles

In the dooryard

Yearning to distract him

But is the hour when

After rehearsal

They took the air

In her garden

Where pinching back

Hybrid rhododendron

She tripped and fell.


He returns

To the gazebo


“Out of the depths

I call unto thee”

Sipping from a glass

Of Valpolicella:


In the grove of firs

Soon to be snow-laden,

Mute with her absence–

The one he called

Dearest, that they hailed

In Milano

As La Stupenda—

She, who sotto voce

Fed him the lover’s bread

Of the prescient body–

He lies down

On the frost-laced earth.



* trans: Ah!  A tremendous phantom arises

That will not leave me…

Let us take refuge here, Edgardo,

at the foot of the altar

Strewn with roses

Do you not hear the harmony of heaven?