Mennonite Poetry Home | Leonard Neufeldt



"Opera Hockey"

Hardly Broadway and 40th. Ours
was the smallest show on earth,
the rink a dining room floor cleared of all
but hand-knitted slippers (the game’s
surrogate goal posts), the teams
four brothers, two each side
leaning into each other, the crowd
Rossini’s Barber of Seville
from the packed-in Saturday matinee
at the MET. Our bout of floor polishing
was fully-half-ruled by love of rising
and falling sounds we hadn’t known.
The puck a soft plastic readiness,
the polishing cloths outdated red
and brown woolens making up for years
of neglect and moths’ quiet ways.
Scoring and arguments over shots
that missed were uneven as the miles
from our torn-out glossies of thoroughbred
New York to the Fraser Valley, and lopsided
as our screech-reach for Roberta Peters’
gift of high Cs and Fs, or our
wall-to-wall delight with Rosina
(Mother turning the radio louder).
We cheered each kick that scored a goal
with raised fist and shout of Bartolo
as the floor shuddered its shine

Scoring a goal was easiest when
the other team was doing the singing ̶—
the floor faultless as the sun
emblazoning it by the time the applause
ebbed and Milton Cross marshalled his broad
tenor range over sentence, pause
and tuxedo-perfect pronunciations
to bid us adieu. Our answer transcendental
soprano mimicry as we skated
to our slippers with stubborn joy
that didn’t pretend to know one day
the puck would go missing
like a dream one tries at a late breakfast
to remember, afterimage with nothing in it.
Not even a rumour could bring it back
once we began to box our future, take
labels, weight, want and all to the city

Tumult and laughter enough to fill
any space emptied for a morning
or more, and so much song
seeking concert pitch, but the game
was always serious. Sometimes
mannered straight-up pose
or sweeping bow, sometimes a rush,
sometimes a sudden fall
that resonated with the stunned chorus,
the pain all but stopping both skaters
and song, as if the wish to make a lead
in the game insurmountable
might not be granted

Mother looking for a shine smouldering
among soaring arias,
knowing every piece of furniture
would be returned to where it belonged —
each piece the same pattern of solid walnut,
no surprises, not even knots, only
what the makers call ‘character’.
An exactness in place and sturdy as what
cannot be dislodged

And yet her voice too finding itself
and singing along with a boy’s
overtime in a world of song
so as not to fall out of practice.
Neither dream nor vision
but more and more direct effort
that furthers desire as well as words
not written down, imagines their movement
into a world on the make and much of it
already mostly made like a house emptied
for someone else to own




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