Friday, May 05, 2006

A. E. Stallings

(from Poetry, April 2005, p. 15.)


The Song Rehearsal

Degas, National Gallery of Scotland


It seems familiar somehow, though it's set
In a parlor in New Orleans - another age.
It's summer - the furniture is draped in white.
A shadowed man looks up from the piano.
Two women are rehearsing a duet -
One is striding down an imagined stage
In full-throated aria, the other,
Turning her face away, holds up her right
Hand against the blast of shrill soprano.

But reading the little plaque, I understand -
The casual scene from life begins to change
To genre. The woman with the lifted hand,
Turning away, as if half-terrified,
With loose, high-waisted skirt, will be a mother.
The singer bearing down on her, mouth wide,
Is the angel trumpeting the news so strange,
So ordinary, it's difficult to believe -
And greater than anything she could conceive.



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