“So You Want an Opera Singer…” by Shevaun Brannigan

Shevaun Brannigan


My opera singer’s name is Leah, I recommend her.
Men fall in love with her when she goes to get the mail,
and not just mailmen, men from across the street,
men who have been following her for four days and want her
address to be their address, they would take her last name,
and just because of her humming. When she gasps,
hearts break. When she snores, marriages fall apart.
With Leah, I am always backstage. Still—

Everyone should have an opera singer for a friend, because
she’ll make you feel classy, and guilty for smoking.
She’ll always have water, she can order in French, and
whenever she’s drunk, it’s a concert.
Everyone should have an opera singer at their wedding,
preferably three, for the harmony. At every birthday
you’re special, at funerals you’re never bored.
Everyone should have an opera singer for a friend, but—

One day you’ll want more. The best way
to court an opera singer: buy her a mansion by the sea,
with a balcony (this way, she’ll serenade you),
with a lemon grove nearby, for her throat, and a servant
for every note in her range. Buy her a grand piano,
(if she already has one, buy one grander).
Hire an accompanist, half as attractive, a live-in,
hire a teacher, but make sure he’s gay. Be persistent—

Buy her vases, never flowers, show your love outlasting
the others, frame programs from every show, sit in front
of the front row, and clap as loudly as she sings.
Most importantly: remember you will never be her true love.
And know, know, she is as jumpy as a coloratura.
Sneeze once, cough, or struggle to clear your throat,
and you’ve lost her: running to her coach, singing her exit,
conducting her own goodbye, and even to this you will cry, “Brava!”

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006


Siobhan Brannigan: “This particular poem came about when I stepped on my dear friend Leah Heater’s feet, resulting in her limping for several days. Not feeling profuse apologies to be enough, I turned to my only skill: poetry. Thus, ‘Opera Singer’ was born.”

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