Verdi Cries

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The man in 119 takes his tea all alone.
Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I’m hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all.
Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call.
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing…

A girl who loved me more than I could love her once made me a mix-tape with this song on it. Yes, I’m of the generation that made mix-tapes. I was reminded of this having just seen ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ for the first time this week. It was gorgeously done, with a soundtrack to match. (No doubt some of them will inform future posts here.) For now, we have Ms. Merchant with her plaintive coo of ‘Verdi Cries’ – a song that brings me back to the end of my high school hijinks and early college mishaps.

He will not touch their pastry
but every day they bring him more.
Gold from the breakfast tray, I steal them all away
and then go and eat them on the shore.

It’s interesting the way a good song like this changes when you revisit it twenty years later. Back then I was mostly entranced by the sad piano melody, barely able to make out some of the lyrics, not caring enough to try to decipher the poetry contained within. Today, I’m slightly better to make sense of things, and to appreciate the stories of others. Growing up for me has been the arduous job of finding value in other people, of opening up to others, of risking pain and love and trusting that even the hurt will be enriching.

To see the seas and shores of someone else, to get a glimpse of how they see the world, and knowing that we each have our quirks, some loved, some lamented – it makes me ache in the best way. We remain so separate, even when connected, but once in a while we manage to break through, to touch one another and become something else, something more than two. Back in high school and college, I thought it was all about finding a perfect match, a person who would complete and fill in everything that I lacked, some wondrously complemental component keeping us together. So desperately did I want that, I gave my heart away, tossing it out like a message in a bottle, bobbing aimlessly in the sea, waiting for the nudge of waves, the terrible storms, the carelessly-passing ships.

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand,
sing of a lover’s fate sealed by jealous hate
then wash my hand in the sea.
With just three days more I’d have just about learned the entire score to Aida.

Sometimes I wonder if I did it all to see what I could still feel, whether my heart was still capable of such passion, such treacherous emotional heights and dips, and it’s both glorious and ruinous to find I can. At each end, for there were many ends, I thought the same thing: I will recover from this, but I will never be the same. I wish I’d hung onto some of them. No one can rend a soul like that and not mean anything. At least, I’d like to think so.

Holidays must end as you know.
All is memory taken home with me:
the opera, the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago.
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