Over-the-Hill Tenors after the Opera

Being a tenor is a young man's game, their light voices
hitting the high notes, flat bellies like shields,
because they have to slay the dragon, drink the poison, kiss
the beautiful soprano but not in St. Petersburg tonight
in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, for the tsar's officers
are stuffed into white spandex pants, their penises
like mummified fish under the expanse of their jerkins,
and the hero Herman, who at least is in black spandex,
but when he takes off his powdered wig, his greasy hair
cannot disguise his bald pâté and his jowls,
and though he puts his all into it, there is no disguising
he is twenty years too old and forty pounds too heavy
for the role, and I think of these tenors after the opera
in an opulent bar all marble and chandeliers,
knocking back vodkas and eating silver fish swimming in oil,
because snacks become so much more important
as the years progress not to mention drinks, or what else
was Hamlet talking about in his famous soliloquy
but figuring out how to make do, slogging along on our paths,
and most of us would rather have a stiff drink
than a bare bodkin and bear our fardels, because what else
is there to do, though some go to God, bless their hearts,
as we say in the South, because the world can be a horror show
with knife-wielding lunatics behind every door,
and most of the time they seem to be people in our own families,
or why would the police look at the husband first
when a wife is strangled or a father when a child disappears?
Every day the newspaper headlines shout at us:
human beings strangle, pistol whip, run over others
in a drunken rage, and then there are the wedding
announcements, the bright shining smiles, no slammed doors
or drinks in faces yet, or maybe the tenors go home
after the opera and drink alone, gazing at framed photos
of themselves twenty years before, their jaws like granite
and eyes shining, looking beyond the camera to a future
just beyond the next room and down the street
where it's raining now, but the sky will clear, and who's to say
what will happen tomorrow or the day after
or when Spring comes or next year or the year after year after year.

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