Thursday, June 27, 2013

For Ashley

   Sorrow departs sweetly in the worst scenes of good opera:
   Huge breasts bound tightly by slag-made cross-your-heart design
   or deceptive concrete cups, ruching, and Empire's feign of draping flag,
   chubby hands clamped to a pale quarter-inch of forehead's foundational
   stage slather;  Spandex back-supported baritone bellies twirl twirl twirl 
   and fall, arms approximating Golgotha, pointy goatee
   in pretty pointy goatee profile.

An aria ensues, eyes glint -- dab dab dab --
and postures suddenly improve.  Posture improves. 

Our theater now plays the halls of Maryland's Walter Reed
where Ashley is one of God's ones:
Top billing, Playbill's pop-eye yellow cover,
where Ashley is exceptionally exceptional.  

When blood pools and she rots,
it's angel wings that sassy girl achieves, not damp, weepy, 
slinky clots of stringy-tissued necrosis;
She's all apotheosis 
and no part pure stink.  

But her breasts are huge and healthy:  It's a family trait.
As her limbs absorb themselves, melting wax preserving
every touch like amber, every thumb print,
the incongruous grows and parts the sorrow
of this busty wasting woman child.

She was meant to die on cue, or perhaps not,
it depends,
as so much does, so much does.  
It depends
on whether Ashley's dying proves operatic
or is cast upon the more prosaic 
planks of unsung trodden drama.  

It depends
on the prompter
for each, as one will throw a lyric voice 
for her sweet ears alone,
and one will hiss and mouth
some line of gasps and sighs,
gutteral utterances.

She each will mock, anyway, with metered overplay --
spout some nasty limerick, jump up and spew
a bloody softshoe,

though in consideration
of her brother and sister actors, her pale arms
and long fingers will cast sand about the stage,
not just so we may hear with acuity
the slide and slides of her mottled soft-soled shoes,
but to soak up the dark dripping red, for when not
congealed, it's a potential hazard, and when
it does clot, the sensation is much
like stepping on a slug.

The prognosis, say the necromancers, will defy
and defile Ashley's breasts while they still swell
and enthrall, still catch a man's eyes, still cause
her male doctors to be glad of long, white coats,
and her female doctors to curse the curse of blushing.  
On cue, all admire the pearl crucifix tucked, twisted,
buried deep in teenage cleavage, between wires,
monitor pads and an embedded port,
wherein all the chemo goes 
and slows, kills and kills,
as indiscriminate as her Lord.

She's old enough, now, to be moved to the adult ward,
(every casted Annie grows up, too, the curls and voice
become insipid, the hair too brazen bronze)
but Ashley was raised, really, on pediatrics,
a child actress, a lisping prima donna,
one of the rare altos to earn deference
as a leukemic red-haired baby, though she has grown
into a pure soprano, the pure soprano
     of a whisper that flies
that waivers and trembles tremolo
     vocal glory, 
          as heads bend closer, longing to hear,
enthralled by a death scene,
the real abstracted, a gilt poem, the spot lit
gift of many a booming brava!

-- and the self-indulgent, tendon-stretching 
screech for more and more, encore! 

-- an athletic, death-defying feat
of lung, tongue, and larynx,
of lip, heart, and soul.

Other heads rear backward, rear away, 
having heard this song before,
differently, having seen the struggle
to perform, smiling and dying, day
after day, way upon way, drip
by drip,

this woman child's performance
sometimes slipping, sometimes allowing
for fears, tears, and memory --
her worst nights closing in febrile hope
of tomorrow.  

Other heads have heard
the song of her ragged breath as she slept
in sweat, while her good parents fiercely prayed.

Other heads smiled at henna tattoos: 
olive blues and orangy seafoam, a grinning
skull, tiny flies, a cross and paisley socks,
elegant peacock elbow-long gloving.
Swift grins at real piercings, despite the risk,
gotten rapidly, suddenly, as impulsively fast
as the sexy photographs and flashes of flesh,
the cover shots for Ashley's billing as
"the beautiful, believing girl who dies too young."

The usual opera written strangely for one,
a theatrical venue in the semi-round,
where Ashley is one of God's
ones, singing her way out --
belting her way out --
in raspy heartbeats,
dreaming of singing
in New York, more Broadway
than Met. Really, if only she could live to know
it, really, Ashley wants an amphitheater,
loving, smiling, nodding heads
looking down, eyes calling soft,
encouraging, eyes calling soft,
pledging troth.

Call it an avatar or be averse
and call it just some photograph,
Ashley's image designed and plotted,
deviously planned to make me love her. 

I saw her picture first
and instantly vowed,
immediately pledged my troth.

"O, teach me how 
I should forget to think!"

Troth being an archaic term,
my vow does not bind but my bow
does bend, and deeply, as I aim brutally
sharp arrows from this ancient site, tall columned
where I perch, and shoot straight
down at Ashley's heart,
pale blue veins between 
breasts fallen apart
as she writhes on her back,
slashing her febrile skull
right left right right left.

Twang and thud.
Twang and thud.

Fun whore hair she chose for color
for life's last stage:  a flirty orange
plait in rasta raffia, that flew so
fast and far from side-to-side
they beat a staccato that fell apart,
a steady beat become dying
chaos, chaotic beeps,
fluorescent green waves
traced black on buzzing paper.

For lips. Ashley selected
a dissonant voice, a rich
and ripe bright pink,
traced somehow red
and smeared
on pillow cases.

O, teach me how I should forget to think! -- Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 1
PHOTO CREDIT: PhiladelphiaPhotos

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