Volume 14 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2022-2023

Norita Dittberner-Jax

The First Live Performance of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Lake Como, an open pavilion,
Corinthian pillars hold up the roof,
a breeze and birds dipping in
and out over the lake like children
playing tag.

We sit, benches, folding chairs,
all our flaws on display,
the heat, the heat, no one
dresses up or even covers up,
a sea of shorts on skinny legs,
varicosities, the body as pudding,
we’re jockeying beer and wine,
a basket of fries or tacos.

The musicians gather and long
before they’re ready, we’re clapping
and whistling, starved for live music.

A nod from the master, the hush
as the program begins,
Vivaldi, then Handel, Viet Cuong,
Walker, Beethoven, short pieces,
a generosity of solos.

Afterward, Instruments packed away,
a word, a wave, we find our cars,
board the buses, leave the pavilion open
for the swoop and sail of birds
riding the echo.

What I have

for Janet

When I play the piano now, I remember
sitting next to you, the way you pressed
the keys, chords stately and full and when
I get the notes right, I touch the keys that way.

I eat my supper on the chair where you sat
recording the numbers for the doctor
in a small notebook. It’s from that chair
that I call in my prescriptions and pay bills.

I have the recording of our dad singing hymns
at the cathedral. You paid for an hour
with the organist so that he could shine.
Certain hymns, spirituals.

Still, what I want is to sit with you again
on the back porch. The nurse left us alone
for a few minutes. We sat side
by side, looking into the garden,
saying nothing.

Norita Dittberner-Jax is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently, Now I Live Among Old Trees. Her last collection, Crossing the Waters (2017, Nodin Press) won the Midwest Book Award in Poetry. Norita has won awards and fellowships for her work. Her new and selected poems, World Enough and Time, will be published in 2023 by Nodin Press. Norita is one of the poetry editors for Red Bird Chapbooks.