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Weekly Poem: ‘Arias’

By Sean Thomas Dougherty

Pavoratti is dead and the streets are full of arias,
     my brother. Every window a tenor leans,

there are sopranos in the olive branches.
     And all across the globe the world

turns to crescendos. Along Parade Street the day passes.
     The Russian women lean on their steps, discussing

the price of cabbages. The boys with tattoos
     ride their skateboards, skipping curbs,

and there is a music to their wheels, a screech,
     a scat and scatter, a turn table cutting La Boheme.

Pavoratti is dead and the streets of his hometown
     are full of weeping, and as his casket is carried

the peoples voices speak, as when Verdi died,
     and as they carried him through the streets

the people spontaneously began to sing
     the slave song of the Hebrews from Nabbaco.

All the dead are rising through the olive branches.
     The elms are weeping on Parade Street

where the sunlight is the color of opera.

     Where my hands are holding my face,

watching the television, the streets full
     of the crowd, gathering to give witness

to what burned their chests and told them
     the true name of sorrow. When we weep

we are most alive. I turn off the television
     and listen to Sasha upstairs. I hear her steps

dancing to a Russian pop song’s staccato.

     There are arias everywhere, my brother.

Can you hear them ghosting through the laundromat steam,
     with the clack of cue balls in the pool halls,

at the CITGO station when the gas glugs,

     where one legged Jethro waits outside

on the curb, humming while smoking a cigarette,
     he blows a halo of smoke casually into the air,

it swirls, composes notes and disappears,
     like a song, a kind of blessed noise, the way music

enters us and vanishes. What remains is why we live.

Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author of nine books, including “Sasha Sings the Laundry on the Line” (2010, BOA Editions), “Nightshift Belonging to Lorca,” a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, and “Except by Falling,” winner of the 2000 Pinyon Press Poetry Prize from Mesa State College.

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