A Butterfly in Odessa

She’d be a prize on any stage, but here, by the Black Sea,

she shines: an Aurora Borealis in its glory.

The medium suits her, and she sings, she sings,

as if absolutely alone, although surrounded

by these simulations of grief: deserted, denigrated, denied,

eyes fired with a kindle of tears. But that for which she really weeps

is this futile place, that distant, venal State,

and the flat, fatiguing mediocrity of her compatriots..

Around her here’s a shell, let’s call it an opera declasse.

This, too, once grand, its gold baroque, ablaze,

its ornamentation now

is as discombobulated as some archeological site, in ruins,

mosaics chipped, degenerately Byzantine:

as unreadable and obscure as a deeply buried book.

Like a scarcity of coal to alleviate the chill,

and playing this role without proper clothes,

she opens her mouth in a plaintive complaint

that that American has not returned,

(though in one movie version he actually does,

and whisks her off to the promised land).

Perhaps it was an errant translation that sets her astray,

the lack of a set that looks even remotely Japanese,

the impossible plumbing in that echoing hall;

and all of the other voices are out of sync.

Don’t you know me, she grieves,

I’m the one who dies

for what she believes.

Though the world about her

drifts: an unmanned ship, and Odessa lies drearily in mist,

these love-torn tones adorn my consciousness like a perfect pearl.