To have become, us three, in the Viennese room, an ensemble—
Was that possible, was that me,
undressing in the olive-green light, for example,
While you stood in the kitchen, on pointe, listening to Norma,
Our aging priestess, in your golden leotard?
I am embellishing again, investing
The past with so many niceties, so much romance, when time,
In fact, has left nothing
except rain on your skin, the evening you pirouetted in,
Naked under your black trench coat, singing our “Casta Diva”—
And there I go again: embellishing, embellishing. . . .
Your little calloused feet
In my ordinary hands—is that corrupted, is that me, kneading
The arches, the heels, the curled pink toes,
while our ancient Victrola crackles
Under the paper lantern? To have opposed the cold, all winter,
With our reckless bodies, the sheets slipping under me,
our most desperate aria
Climaxing: a picture accurate enough, it seems to me, though
It is invented, therefore uninhabitable—
like a bedroom at the bottom of the sea. . . .
Here are the three windows: square, uncurtained, one for each;
There is the wet street wandering toward the Stephansdom,
only to circle back
To the Viennese room: to you, in your square window, pliéing
To our opera, our soprano
walking with her lover, hand in hand, into the pyre—
Could I sense the flames, could I simply stand there, gripping
My leather shoulder bag, crammed with records,
ready to leave, to never return?
The thought is laughable; no doubt a dramatic embellishment—
I stand behind you, rubbing a knot in your shoulder,
sneaking down the leotard
To better dig in my knuckles, until the inevitable end appears—
Me, unpinning your hair, on the needlepoint stool,
while the priestess calls to us
Across the room, oh, tremulous fluttering: and you turn to me. . . .