Karen Paul Holmes

Once I loved an opera singer from Spain
February 20, 2023 Holmes Karen Paul

Once I loved an opera singer from Spain


for 15 days, maybe 20.
Or rather, the idea of loving a Spanish opera singer.
A mishap in bed put the kybosh on it—
embarrassment too much for our college-kid selves.
Just before Christmas break, he gave me a stunning sweater,
angora, but I couldn’t shell out my little cash stash
for a guy about to be shunned. Oh his sad-possum look opening
the acrylic scarf I bought at Kmart! We didn’t speak again.


A few years ago, curious, I bought a video—
The Barber of Seville, with him in old Dr. Bartolo
makeup and powdered wig, not recognizable.
His bass had grown into a fine bear-awake-in-winter.
I could’ve been the wife of an acclaimed opera singer!
No. No, I couldn’t.


Earlier in music school, I loved the first horn player
who made me nervous. All my practice room prowess
petered out at orchestra rehearsals sitting next to him.
More nerves, worse mess ups: a brutish cyclone.
Once, he was sick. I nailed the slippery solos in the Hamlet prelude,
even got atta-girls via shuffled feet!
First Horn asked me to marry him, then called finale
just before The Day.


There was also Dane Yarbrough, who kissed me 50 times
on the 10-minute bus ride from kindergarten. I don’t remember
his lips but can hear Elvis on an older girl’s transistor,
can see myself bouncing, telling Mother. He soon left town.
She called me boy crazy from then on. I never again
told her about kisses.


My Demark has gone rotten twice, late in life. A 32-year marriage
became a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
I’m writing a Dear Ex letter in my head, asking him
What have you since learned? I want to tell him
I finally know how to love better.
And then my new Beloved died.


Though a rock and roll fan, he sat through Wagner’s Siegfried with me
(five hours) and got just as fed up when the hero
left his idyllic life with soulmate Brünnhilde. Then got killed.
Precipitating her death.


Without my soulmate, I’m trying to be the Merry Widow,
but it’s not the melodious life I had with him.
Maybe my kindergarten self knew best.


O Dane where are you? Does your hair still dip into your eyes?
Is it tinseled with silver now, like mine?
Are you kind and good? Could you love me without condition,
as you’ve likely loved a dog, even after he chewed
your drum sticks? Could you be exactly like my Beloved,
only healthy? In the car, would you sing
It’s Now or Never, harmonizing with me.

Karen Paul Holmes won the 2023 Lascaux Poetry Prize. Her second book is No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin), and poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, The Slowdown, and Verse Daily. Journal credits include Valparaiso Review, Diode, Pedestal, and many more. She hosts the Side Door Poets in Atlanta.