On the 3rd floor of the Curtis Institute,
Past the Franz Hals imitation on the first
Landing, past hallways clogged with harps,
I tiptoe over some Mezzo's practiced scales
Without tripping-to the student opera recitals.

A man whose radio voice I recognize
Narrates:  The bourgeois crowds at the Paris Opera
Were quite offended by Bizet's heroine.
After her stabbing death they left in droves
Or howled in fury when Don Jose withdrew the knife.

Lights.  And then the student Carmen slinks
On stage.  Her hair is permed, her danskin tight,
As she paley mopes about the tavern, when
Don Jose struts in.  Student trumpeters
Planted in the audience blast his platoon's fanfare.

The mini-skirted Carmen clicks her cas-
Tenets and sways, as if she's making her solo way
Between rows of clapping sweet-sixteeners.
Don Jose removes his cloak and hat-
She rubs against his back and licks him with

Her own rapid fire mocking soprano
Version of his army's call to arms.
Her own, that is, which she employs to keep his puffy
Belly unquivering - while he turns her down.
Or does he?  He is already almost bald,

A quickly aging twenty-two.  And he must
Be carefully appraising his impending
Graduation-and the urging brash piano
Accompaniment, braising, as much as the spots,
The filaments of her almost wild curls.

Helpless against his down gypsy-do
Her fingers bury in his silk to pop
The final buttons?  Or is it from the strain?
Disconcerted, we learn again to chafe
In our seats, as she lingers on his lips too long.

Leonard Kress

If you've any comments on this poem, Leonard Kress would be pleased to hear from you.