Olivia Cole

Between some acts

In the Piazza Bra, Verona

Victor Emanuel looks on at the gathering dusk
and crowd. Cast in iron he must be used, by now,
to this purpose in the air, to this sweep of pale sky -
when next I looked away from the arena's stage,
I found it dark. For each act the moon climbed higher.

Sporadic stars disappeared and reappeared through cloud
and bats or tiny birds in phosphorescent free fall, too small to see,
flickered - held, in the spotlight's beam. Moving
to track Carmen, as gently and intently as a lover,
it caught them too, their dark mechanics of flight,

suspended, beating, stagecraft exposed above
the candles and the crowd. All night they hovered before
that paper world, its painted dust, and cigarette girls,
and later, with real light and another night not far away
she swept, alive, in a haze of bouquets and friends

past the square's café's - her tiny puppet figure,
pin-holed, near, magnified to laughter, conversation, dawn,
cold wine, the lighting of another, and another
cigarette. Unwound now, free for a few hours
till she wakes so late in the day - to the rustle

of cellophane, once more, and feels the day's heat rise
against the shutters, the hours, the wilting flowers.
Body taut as a lizard, her lips mouth lines.
Already in the wings she remembers how the light
must fade, and fearful as a lazy tourist, she waits

to make a break from shade, chased out into brightness.

Also a recent Eric Gregory award winner, Olivia studies English at Christ Church College, Oxford. She is widely published in various poetry anthologies.

 

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