Un bel di vedremo

Mostly, when my mother sang
she sang alone in her alien kitchen.
Songs from The Student Prince she had sung
for a performance in high school.
All of the songs,
all sung to her unrequiteful emptiness.

Her barren stage a kitchen sink,
store-bought green tomatoes
softening three by three
in boxes wrapped in cellophane
on the winter-shaded windowsill.

***

No one else at Washburn High could sing a lick.
My mother’s voice,
so young then in mid-adolescence,
was enchanting.
Encantadora.

But my mother couldn’t act a lick.
Cognition paralyzed,
she wandered around the stage
as a pottering extra.
She took over every song,
her voice flew like a soul:

encantadora.
My mother was enchanting.
She sang alone
what she had picked up from Puccini:

Mimi’s arias.
Madame Butterfly.
sixty-five years after she sacrificed
our voices to utility
I cannot listen to “Un bel di. ”
Ah, I must listen to “Un bel di”
somehow to share the beauty
and hazard an attempt to sire
some vain corrective memory of their horror.

***

My mother was enchanting.
She sang from the scullery
of women’s forlorn sublime.
They sang,
a duet of a single voice in two souls.

They each know that their aria is about death:
theirs shared.
Butterfly sings of her lover’s return,
Pinkerton gone forever
to her deadly/sublime belief.

One fine day and soon,
she would take their lives.
The two women together sing
their lonely way out of deadly routine,
sing into that fine day,
sing their common way out of life.

Together or apart, sharing
the life-long suicide that is beauty,
together as one they remain enchanting.
And I am living to become their last survivor—

***

Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto,
on the edge,
like Odysseus staring out at the empty sea,
e aspetto gran tempo.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the North Woods of Minnesota and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. He is the author of five books of poetry, notably Disordinary Light, and most recently Eumaeus Tends, based on the few lines of The Odyssey that are axial to our understanding of the power and complexities of love. A new book, a new experiment, Selenity Book Four appeared in February, 2017. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.