TBD on Ning

Honda Pavarotti

by Tony Hoagland

I'm driving on the dark highway
when the opera singer on the radio
opens his great mouth
and the whole car plunges down the canyon of his throat.

So the night becomes an aria of stars and exit signs
as I steer through the galleries
of one dilated Italian syllable
after another. I love the passages in which

the rich flood of the baritone
strains out against the walls of the esophagus,
and I love the pauses
in which I hear the tenor's flesh labor to inhale

enough oxygen to take the next plummet
up into the chasm of the violins.
In part of the song, it sounds as if the singer
is being squeezed by an enormous pair of tongs

while his head and legs keep kicking.
In part of the song, it sounds as if he is
standing in the middle of a coliseum,
swinging a 300-pound lion by the tail,

the empire of gravity
conquered by the empire of aerodynamics,
the citadel of pride in flames
and the citizens of weakness
celebrating their defeat in chorus,

joy and suffering made one at last,
joined in everything a marriage is alleged to be,
though I know the woman he is singing for
is dead in a foreign language on the stage beside him,
though I know his chain mail is made of silver-painted plastic
and his mismanagement of money is legendary,
as I know I have squandered
most of my own life

in a haze of trivial distractions,
and that I will continue to waste it.
But wherever I was going, I don't care anymore,
because no place I could arrive at

is good enough for this, this thing made out of experience
but to which experience will never measure up.
And that dark and soaring fact
is enough to make me renounce the whole world

or fall in love with it forever.

"Honda Pavarotti" by Tony Hoagland, from Donkey Gospel.

© Graywolf Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission.

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Replies to This Discussion

Can you imagine how free  I felt when Ma said ride your bike over to your sisters house

( almost 2 miles away ) and give her this letter. Sis had no phone but could use the neighbors

to call Ma that I arrived. I probably was at the ripe old age of 9 or 10. Neither Ma or Sis ever drove

in their entire lives and my Dad was at work.

I peddled as fast as my little legs could go and watched for the occasional car or truck on the road.

One mile down Big Ditch Road and I turned right onto Norden Road with only a half mile to go.....

Now I'm singing a song my Dad taught me  to the top of my lungs:

The cow kicked Nellie in the belly in the barn

The cow kicked Nellie in the belly in the barn

The cow kicked Nellie in the belly in the barn

Just to see how far she could fly

This big dog must have heard my wailing and decided to come out and chase my wheels.

I stopped singing and started yelling and screaming because I had to get that letter to my Sis.

Good luck shone on me that summer day because the dog only wanted my wheels

and my sis heard me and cam running out yelling at the dog. The letter was delivered. the call was made

and I got some cookies to haul back home.....i was soaring that day with freedom on my wheels.




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