Choir Loft

Belinda hoped tonight would be a rehearsal where she could fade to the back row. Always having been one of the “good” ones in other choirs, she was now surrounded by disconcertingly talented singers. Most of them 20 years her junior. She was now self-conscious about her vibrato, and ruefully remembered how she and fellow youthful soprani had snarkily imitated older singers’ wide, wavering vibratos. Chickens, meet roost.

The audition had gone well (feeling a little rusty, she had chosen an Italian art song that the accompanist could probably have played blind drunk with one hand), and Belinda went into the first rehearsals feeling pretty confident. But the music the conductor selected made her feel uneasy and off-balance. Close, dissonant harmonies; odd meters; foreign vocal techniques that left her feeling old, out of touch. Consequently, she had been making up excuses to avoid practicing. And when she did practice, she made so many mistakes! And why were there so damn many sustained high A’s? A few years ago, she wouldn’t have blinked. Perhaps she should have tried out as an alto, but she had always had trouble reading inner voice parts. Just couldn’t really hear it, you know?

So Belinda came to rehearsal feeling sickly, unprepared. A cold terror seized her gut when the section leader said they were going to do quartets this evening. Her only hope was that there were so many soprani, they would probably have to double up; she could pair up with one of the confident young girls, and follow her lead. Or she could duck out to the ladies when it was coming up to her row.

She was so distracted that she barely noticed the first couple of quartets singing one of the challenging passages in an impossibly difficult piece. Everyone clapped enthusiastically, gave critiques, praised the singers. It is true, they were not perfect, but they gave clear evidence of having practiced the passage. Belinda had barely looked at it, let alone worked out the alternating meter and (let’s face it) downright unpleasant harmonies.

Glancing over a few seats, she locked eyes with a woman of roughly her own age, who had been smiling and listening. She nodded, Belinda thought kindly, and seemed relaxed and unworried, tapping her foot lightly and breathing with the singers.

Suddenly, it occurred to Belinda: she had years, years of experience behind her. She had sung masses and requiems and cantatas of equal or surpassing difficulty. She had ALWAYS loved to sight-read! That’s all she needed to do, really, both listen closely to and shut out the other parts, simultaneously. That was what she had learned to do all these years.

All of sudden, she was up. Deep breath. Go.

Salad Days

Jill sat at the glass-topped table, aimlessly moving a piece of lettuce around the plate, like a wayward jigsaw puzzle piece that does’t match the box photo, not at all, whose idea was this anyway, stupid lunch with Flynn that just wouldn’t serve any..

Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Flynn didn’t show, and so she ordered this salad that she didn’t even want. Who cuts these black olive slices into precious little stars, anyway, some underpaid college student no doubt trying to work her way to a degree that is useless and probably marrying the totally wrong kind of person to get out from under the loan debt, who would stand you up for lunch even as the divorce papers…

Anyway. The grackles fussed over a discarded disk of bread, a lazy bumblebee (hah! she knew it was not lazy at all, such a human misperception of the life of bees, for godsake they worked so hard for so little, just a bit of yellow powder clinging to their…) hovered near the slightly ratty bougainvillea. Perfect landscaping for this nondescript little bistro Flynn picked for their, what, maybe last ever lunch together. And Flynn. Where was he.

Well then. Jill pressed her fingers to her wrist. Pulse, a little accelerated. She could feel a moistness on her forehead that foretold a headache coming on (Oh, come on, really now, she had been disappointed so many times before, rack this one up to The Usual…).

The problem was, she knew that after this flurry of dispiriting missed meetings and misdirected anger, they would be friends and probably no certainly this was for the best. Still. He could have at least picked a better restaurant to make his final, dismissive statement.

Jill relished the last drops of iced tea (formerly iced, rather), sucking noisily through a straw and enjoying the glances of fellow undiscerning diners. A warm glow spread through her stomach (maybe this headache would lay her low) as she rose, left some money on the table, and left the lettuce and little star shaped olive for the grackles to share, or not.

Hot Sweet Nirvana (for Ian)

The only thing that makes me rise
Is the pull of a cuppa hot joe.
I’m pretty much a shambling schmoe
‘Til its molecules unshutter my eyes.

I know it should be clear blue skies,
or the hectoring of a morning crow,
or my lover’s touch so sweet and slow,
or the cat’s plaintive, spoilish cries.

But: what if nature abhorred caffeine?
And suddenly: no more java.
What then of this shallow, de rigueur routine?

Could I make do with a bean that is fava?
I feel that would force the golden mean
fallacy; so no sacred bean, no nirvana.

Headlights (for Becca)

The road before seemed light
enough,
highbeams snicked to lowbeams,
clear lines to follow right
and center.

A glance, a smile exchanged
(seconds, no more), and the night
clicked to sadness.

We watched the sight dim in its eyes.

Nothing to be done
but drive on,
blinding all oncomers
with unwavering brights.

Spring Storm

The air is gravid with possibility today.
Clouds chase the humidity to ground, their grey
sending the neighborhood cats
home early.

Dogwoods light the woods from within,
paperwhite,
though not rare, somehow
barely there.

Cardinals arrow through the gathering branches,
against a brief punch-out of blue.

Tiny goblets of rain toast this day,
the sound and fury it will make,
indicating
everything.

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