There is this picture
torn from a book
a favorite, a model for how
I should appear—
idealized for a twelve year old
who knew already knew that a girl
in her father's world would always
stand apart and figure less
his boy was a girl his son
and heir was a girl
the older than a girl in the picture
wears an ankle length skirt with
a white linen blouse
she holds what could be
a handkerchief or a wide ribbon
for her dark hair
her other hand reaches to
a tall man who is facing her,
she looks away from
him—looks away and down.
We went to concerts at colleges and universities. Major
artists at student prices we could afford. Claremont
College gave us first Sills and now Pavarotti. We brought
our scores for this one, Bizet, Puccini, Verdi, Schuman
and the recital favorites. Pages turning like locusts cutting
through fields of dry corn. Intermission was noisy, we were
excited and inspired, fairly running back to our seats. Then
he sang Caro Mio Ben and the air left our lungs.
Our first song right out of Schirmer’s “Twenty Four Italian Songs.”
After all those scales we finally had a melody, a lyric—Caro mio ben.
And here was how it could sound, how it should sound. A hymn
of yearning “Thou, all my bliss, without you senza di te
languisce my heart languishes” not our strangled climb to
the next note and the next note and the next. We closed
our books and slouched in our seats. “cessa crudel cease cruel one ”
chastised, throats slashed, grateful.
Julianna McCarthy is a Schieble Sonnet Prize winner, a Pushcart Prize Nominee, and a Marsh Hawk Press Prize finalist. Her poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, American Journal of Poetry, Tidal Basin Review, Best Poem, Nimrod and others. Her chapbook Everything Hurts was recently released by Latitude 34 Press, her chapbook Photoplay was released by Finishing Line Press in 2010. She holds an MFA from New England College.