duly paid, quite a pro, superiorly trained
one who could look at a score, unscramble it cold.
The entrance was abrupt, in the second measure.
The entrance came as a slap in the face in the second
measure, third beat. And she saw it
open eyes, throat open, heart and lungs wide open.
She observed, almost admired it, she embraced it
her whole being prepared to mouth it
gulp it then spit it out but she couldn't.
She swallowed instead.
He turned towards her, the conductor
one she hadn’t met before.
Instead of going on he turned and he lifted an eyebrow.
A split second. That gaze she’d never forget.
Frozen blade, laser sizzling her on the spot.
Only two bars in the famous conductor
took the liberty of starting over
gave the poor clumsy thing
an undeserved second chance.
Now she knew where the entrance was.
Two words, third and fourth beat
of the second measure, easy to pronounce
a prayer, a chant, what was this piece
about? Someone told her, of course
when hours ago she received the call
concert dress always spick-and-span in the closet.
Now she knew where she should sing
the soprano sub, like an angel
like crystal rain from above
and she breathed on time
and yet something choked her
and she missed as one skids on black ice
as one skips a step and then rolls
down a flight of stairs and lands on her back.
This time the conductor went on.
She jumped in as if mounting a wild
unsaddled nightmare. She sung through.
She bowed at the applause.
As she wanders backstage, seeking the green room
the score flickers behind eyelids half-close.
The diagram of the second bar
lines her corneas still. The words cruelly
eluding her tongue were perdona nos.
She removes make-up in front of the mirror
thoughts unfocused, brains leaking lassitude.
She muses about the two most reflective
things she can think of, self-portrait and suicide.
Leaning back on her chair, she imagines
a stroboscopic lamp, a globe, but concave
or perhaps she is in it.
Sphere of faceted shine, sparkling beehive.
She can feel the smoothness of glass
its cool, soothing surface
and the lethal sharpness of shards.
Toti O'Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has recently appeared in Bridge Eight, Little Somethings, Metafore, and Alkhemia Poetica.