by Peter Weltner
A shepherd’s sorrow, classic and bucolic. His tune
arches like a paper bridge over a silk stream.
Seedlings growing, meadows blooming. See
ewes bleating after lambs and cows lowing
after calves. Watch cocks strut, bulls rut, bucks
fart–a touch of anti-pastoral always works,
though cuckoos have to sing, of course. So:
on a woodland set, ripe with flowers, the best
of bone and blood plays his lyre and weeps.
Next, a much gloomier scene pictures an opening
in a wood, the darkness impassable like a bleak
corridor you’ve seen in a dream one night
or another, the twisting ledge like the edges
of Highway One north of Jenner. The specters’
choral protests clatter like a semi’s broken
muffler. Yet O.’s voice spins gold threads braided
into sun rays, as hippies in those days would say
in praise of Baez. Cut to an emerald meadow.
Or a wipe. A boy with a piccolo soprano leads
him to the king and queen to whom O. sings
the dirge he’s composed, elegant, suave, and bel
canto, yes? Even so, the girl draws back,
less ashamed than embarrassed. Death dabs
his jowls with a sooty cloth. It’s drably dull
down there, you see, and he and his wife are bored
with more than E. and her pointless tears. Please,
please take her back, they beg, on one condition.
O’s only an innocent kid, sixteen or so. How could
he know Death’s rape has left her mute and deaf?
In a slow tracking shot, he sings of his delight but
is puzzled by her failed response. Of all people,
your sweetheart should most appreciate your art.
Sex has always settled their quarrels. But when he
reaches to touch her, all that lingers in his grip
is her see-through slip. Like a magician, he shakes
the cloak that veiled the lady he’s made vanish.
Quick montage during a ruckus of a barnyard
chorus. But all those beasts, wild at his
departure, become fast tamed at his return.
As in that third grade pageant you acted in,
they smile and stare, and the flowers and trees lean
closer to listen to his song, sadder than any
he’s crooned before. What do they hear? Perhaps
what you heard, if you were lucky. The kid’s
a terrific performer, sure to be famous some day.
A dissolve to a windswept beach, its sand a white
powder blowing like mist over the strand.
Like his eyes, the glassy sea’s less turquoise
than green. Shot day for night, the harpies
pounce on him, orange fright wigs askew,
black lipstick smeared on feral lips, swishing
vine stalks at him like the wicked witch’s broom
or Mickey’s in that cartoon until O.’s head gushes
blood like the pretty boy’s in a slasher flick.
A last crane shot: a vast, roiling ocean
on which bobs no more of O. than can be seen
of a man treading water to save his life,
though waves toss his dome about like a child’s
beach ball. Yet disincarnate, mystical, he soars
sunward, still singing. Meditative strings play
on the soundtrack. The light that now glares
from the imageless screen is O.’s apotheosis.
New star, new god. A cut to black. Credits.
The theater’s cleared. The film begins again
in a few minutes, after a new audience’s filed in
to see and hear O. perform on his lyre,
watch him lose Love twice over, cringe
at his maenadic dismemberment, thrill
at his stunning change to heavenly song.
Staring eagerly at the empty screen,
they wait patiently, assured O. will show
by their ticket stubs’ theological conviction.