It was raining today at the Food Bank, but still the bags of food needed to be delivered out to people’s cars. By the end water had soaked through to the inside of my shoes. I’m not complaining, just noting. Later I was talking to someone who commented on the rain, saying that it was better than the snow that’s coming later.
About two years ago, in winter as solid and razor-like as our winters get, I was in a poetry mood, which in my case originates mostly from emotion rather than intellect. In that mood I wrote a poem that sets a scene of warmth and intimacy inside, surrounded by the bitter cold outside. The poem also does other things, as it’s a romantic poem.
The title is in Italian, a naming practice that I normally consider incredibly pretentious. Unless you’re an Italian poet. Or unless I do it. It translates as “How the stars used to shine there”. The line is the beginning of a beautiful aria from the opera Tosca by Puccini. The aria is referred to in the poem, which I wrote not long after seeing the opera.
The morning sun shines across the snow bright as God’s glory.
It is bitterly cold out,
as I sit with a cup of tea,
watching the cat contented in her private world.
My lover is playing the piano for me.
She is nervous if I watch her,
so I sit in the next room listening.
From my chair I cannot see her,
but a line of sunlight splashing across the piano
shows me part of her shadow on the floor.
the shadow reveals only her arms and hands on the keyboard.
I listen to the music
and watch the shadow hands play.
From the hours I have now been with her
on a winter’s night and day,
from the intensity of our love making,
when we ceased to be two separate people,
from how much I love her,
that nearly breaks my heart with its fullness,
from her desire to play for me,
to share this pleasure she takes in playing,
my contentment is so great
it is like a physical presence.
But as I watch the shadow hands
play a melancholy aria from “Tosca”,
I remember that I am in a dream.
These moments together have been stolen from the world,
hidden away as the secret
of our loving each other.
Soon we will return to the world.
Then I wonder if her love for me will fade,
with no more substance than shadow hands
playing an aria from the past.