At the Opera
On Saturday afternoons
Mother sat in her red leather chair,
hunched over the ironing board.
Her little radio in the kitchen
filled the house with Don Giovanni, LaBohème,
the sustained notes of tenors. For hours
she pressed pillowcases, tablecloths,
my stiffened crinolines. Steam rose
in a heat of hisses near windows often frosty.
Richard Tucker, Mario Lanza were hers
as she sprinkled linens and pajamas alike
from a green Coke bottle.
My father never noticed this love affair,
the ca-chug of his adding machine tabulating
accounts against a climactic high C.
Summers, the shifting stir of the electric fan
cooled whatever guilt Mother felt,
the penance of starched white curtains
billowing with her idols' arias out our open windows.
It was the Crosscups' time to entertain,
waffles with maple syrup on Sunday night
and Kodachromes served up on a wobbly screen.
We lay on our stomachs, chins propped on hands,
bored with photos of Stone Mountain.
The siren opened its eerie whine.
We scrambled for laps. Porch light, all lights off
except for the glow of slide after slide
and the projector's dusty beam,
which the adults decided would not be
against the rules.
What did we fear most?
The imagined bombers circling over Atlanta,
piloted by faces we could not fathom,
or Warden Wheeler's scowl
as he patrolled the neighborhood
peering through the closed drapes
for a thin crack of light.