by Suzanne Cleary

La Traviata, Taconic Opera, April 2021
Depew Park, Peekskill, NY

Alfredo, who can blame you
for, during First Intermission, sitting
in the grass, eating a granola bar?

After meeting the woman you’ve loved
from afar, holding her as she faints,
mortally ill, in your arms,

who can blame you for courting,
if briefly, the April breeze,
the shower of tiny yellow flutes

the trees drop into our laps?
In your charcoal wool suitcoat
and red cravat, you struggle

to open the cellophane wrapper,
to savor the small treat hidden
by your large, expressive hands,

by the distance imposed on us
by pandemic’s slow retreat.
Alfredo, it seems scripted

that you eat a power-snack,
for you know what lies ahead.
You have rehearsed this role

for over one year, in the isolation
of quarantine: you, Violetta,
your father, the nurse, not to mention

six surviving members of the chorus,
each of you singing alone
in your rooms. You, Alfredo,

practiced until you believed
that your love will cure Violetta,
as it never once has.

Masked and frightened, still
we have gathered in the municipal park
at the edge of the soccer field

as if to see this alone, Alfredo:
your awkward kneeling in the grass,
your rising in time for Act II.


Finalist of the Poetry International Prize 2023

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