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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


by David Chorlton

Dear Giacomo, after much resistance I came around
to accepting the premise that beauty
is most beautiful in tragedy. Poor Mimi, cold
and terminally ill, touches us where no inspirational speaker
can reach. Earning what we deserve
doesn’t sound so attractive after listening to her die
and there’s something vainglorious
about the way people strut their successes and talk
into cell phones to set up the next deal
while the spotlight shines on a dying aria and they
don’t even know it’s happening. Give me
a story with tears; I’m tired of victory marches,
of boasting as a qualification to be president, of compound
interest as a way of life, let me enjoy
a good long cry. It’s a shame that Madama Butterfly
killed herself, but it feels good to see it.
The Buddhist dies. The Navy lieutenant lives.
The sympathy and music are hers.
You liked exotic settings, but they’re hard for us to reach
with travel agencies turned into counter-terrorism
units these days. You might have found a plot
right here to make into opera. A poor girl from Mexico
cleans a rich man’s house but is arrested
for jay-walking on her way back
to the tumbledown apartment where she lives
and because she has no papers the sheriff orders
that she be deported. You could have written such
a stirring chorus for the scene in which she tries
to escape. You could have made us cry
for everyone who tried to help her, but we don’t really need
the score anymore. It happens and it’s beautiful
to watch people confront the harsh authorities.
Even when they fail and none of them can sing
I think of your most painful scenes
where no border runs
between happiness and grief.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix for 30 years and come to love the desert around it. He recently won the Ronald Wardall Award from Rain Mountain Press for The Lost River, a chapbook whose contents reflect his unease with what is happening to our planet. More of his work, including paintings, is at his Web site.