Friday, 8 April 2011

Something for the weekend



To the Woman Singing Opera in Covent Garden

So.
When the world isn't giving you space to breathe,
when the sky's overcast
and you're trussed in shrink-wrapped tights
and a cheap interview suit,
regretting every decision you ever made
or didn't,
When the surface of life
is slippery and unforgiving,
your back is killing you
from your last abortive attempt
to lose those last ten pounds,
and the years have slipped selfishly
through your waving fingers,
this is what you need to do.

You need to brave the clumps
of European schoolkids,
stammering to a halt on the pavements,
cameras raised,
aching to freeze a fragment of today.

And even though these shoes
were made for dazzling clients,
not for walking,
you need to chance the cobblestones
and low-flying pigeons
to go where the applause is.
Unprepared, primal,
vital as the unstifled breath of trees.

Walk the cod-Italian piazzas
their scraps of blown glass and overpriced T-shirts,
Stand behind the railings
with the fragments of crowd
and look down
to where the voice is coming from.

The voice you assumed
could not be human,
manufactured like syrup
in some island processing plant,
to filter through restaurant sound-systems,
and press on to cold chemical discs,
so we're not surprised
when our speakers deliver us this gift.

Unashamedly loud, she sings
arias to the crowd that would bring
dictators to their knees.
It makes everything on your mind
so much clutter, so much
temporary litter,
that for the moment
your brain is wild and clear as water.

She is not dressed in cleavage-plunging velvet
with lacquered hair. No,
she's just got on trousers and a jumper
looking for all the world like she's not sure how she got here,
as if she left the kids
at a wide pine table
with cookies and Play-Doh
While she made this dreamy poppy-field of song.

And as she sings, even the hassled fathers
and fractious daughters, even the waitresses
sneaking fags on their shift break,
stop, as though having a revelation
that there's more to life than this.

That there are other deeper selves
revealed, briefly, in a shaft of light,
and this music so floods the air
that we know, despite all the hungers,
twitches, disappointments,
that we are alive, and that, just for now,
everything, for the moment, is all right.

More poetry by the lovely Sophia Blackwell

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