David Kirby

Say You’re Don Giovanni
April 13, 2012 Kirby David

Say You’re Don Giovanni


Say you’re Don Giovanni Giovanni and you make

love to Donna Anna and fight a duel with her father

and kill him and invite him to dinner and he says


“Repent!” and you say forget it and the earth opens

up and flames shoot out and you fall all the way

to hell. Or say I’m Don Giovanni and you’re Donna


Anna’s dad. This time, you’re Donna Anna.  Or is it

Donna Elvira? Make up your mind, I want to be

the other one. Now I’m Leperello, Don Giovanni’s


faithful servant, and you’re an oboist in the pit.

How’d you get to be an oboist? I know, same way

everybody does: your parents played Peter and


the Wolf for you when you were a kid. You’re

a little girl who’s at the opera for the first time,

an elderly widower who left Europe not a minute


too soon, a music student who can only afford

a cheap seat but knows she’ll be a star some day.

What happened to me? I’m outside Lincoln Center


selling hot dogs; I just got to this country and I’m not

quite sure what opera is. The show must be over—

isn’t your dress pretty! I’m a cab driver, so hop in.


Let’s go to a restaurant. Let’s go to a restaurant

in China. We’ll just point to what we want;

you’ll have the noodles, and I’ll have that thing.


Dessert? Gelato? I can’t fly a plane, though—oh,

you can. Then let me tend to the drinks and

the little bags of peanuts. Why are you


turning red? Doctor! This will only sting for

for a second. Should we go to hell and see how

Don Giovanni’s doing? Oh, that’s right,


you’re Don Giovanni. Well, you say you are.

Pleased to meet you. I’m Donna Anna, and this

is my dad. Places,  everyone. Maestro to the pit!


Wait, what happened to the Met? It’s 1964 and we’re

at the Copacabana; you’re Sam Cooke and I’m all

the sadness in the world.  You’re the audience now.


I’m nobody. You’re Emily Dickinson. Don’t let the door

hit you on the way out! Look, I’m Emily Dickinson,

and I’m working here, see?

David Kirby’s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. His other honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. This essay is a chapter in Kirby’s forthcoming book The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them, which will be published this summer by Flip Learning. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please.