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Music by Douglas Babington

Beneath the proscenium’s blinding light

while discreet musicians tuned their strings

silhouetted figures stood out,

inching along the aisles and rows,

nodding with grace and precision.


In the hubbub of fashionable chat

men regained confidence lost

a few short hours before on the city’s black streets.

Tuxedos trumped, for now, the pandemic.


Then Orpheus began to complain,

entreating the master of hell

to be moved by an excess of tears.


Eurydice eluded her lover.

A certain surprise swept across the hall,

terrible in the spectators’ eyes.


Just then the orchestra stopped.

People arose at once

and slowly began to evacuate the hall,

quiet like a church whose service is done

or a mortuary after a visit

by women gathering their skirts

and men dodging collision with folding chairs.


But little by little the pace picked up.

Whispers gave way to exclamation

as the crowd gained the street,

intent to jostle and shout its black alarm.


Luxury fell useless back in the emptied hall,

hand fan and lace renounced on a red seat’s arm.


Douglas Babington is a Montreal-based writer whose publications include poetry, prose fiction, and essays.  For many years he directed a writing centre at Queen’s University in Ontario.  His most recent book is a translation, from Modern Greek into English, of Alexandra Bakonika’s Tragedy and the Den of the Senses (Athens: Alfeios Editions, 2020).

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