Salieri, after a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute
at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, October, 1791
The cheap seats love the man.
Each night he lures them from slogging streets
into the pomp and pageantry of fairy tales
with music that makes the angels cry.
They love the oboes courting flutes, bassoons
entwined in clarinets; strings outracing
trombones, trumpets, tubas, horns
toward kettledrums shuddering the boards
beneath their feet. They care not for scores
or virtuosity. They want delight—
magic doors, scenes that fly,
finales—and more, und mehr.
I hide behind red drapes high
above the crowd, and watch them watch
the note-barrage shooting from his fingertips.
And when the coloratura soars
toward F above high C, I catch them catch
their breath before their “Bravos!”
seize the chandeliers where magic drips
from candle wax. The pulse-throb
of the aria vibrates my skin.
I want to cry. Divinity has voice.
But when the curtain falls
the deafening applause unhinges me.
“Encore! Encore!” reminds
this lesser child of God,
he’s fated second-best.
Heaven-hurt, I never could compose
so many notes across a page;
never could raise a mundane crowd
above its seats as that little man
with fire in his fingertips.
by Carolyn Martin
Previously published in Carolyn Martin, Finding Compass (Portland, OR: Queen of Wands Press, 2011). Used with permission of the author.
Carolyn Martin is blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, where she gardens, writes and plays with creative friends. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red-penciled “extremely maudlin,” she is still amazed she continues to write. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Stirring, Persimmon Tree, Antiphon, and Naugatuck River Review. Her second collection, The Way a Woman Knows, was released in February 2015 by The Poetry Box, Portland, OR.
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