American Life in Poetry | After the Opera

American Life in Poetry | After the Opera

My teacher and mentor, the late Karl Shapiro, once said of opera, "I'm afraid, Ted, that it's sort of silly." Here is a poem by Richard Schiffman that has a little fun with the hair-on-fire excesses of grand opera. It's from his book "What the Dust Doesn't Know" from Salmon Poetry.

After the Opera

The curtain parts one last time

and the ones who killed

and were killed,

who loved inordinately,

who went berserk, were flayed alive,

descended to Hades,

raged, wept, schemed —

victims and victimizers alike —

smile and nod and graciously bow.

So glad it's finally over,

they stride off

suddenly a bit ridiculous

in their overwrought costumes.

And the crowd — still dark,

like God beyond the footlights of the world —

rises to its feet

and roars like the sea.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It also is supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem, copyright 2017, reprinted by permission of Schiffman and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kooser, served as U.S. poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

Topics (2):Art, Books