Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MARIA CALLAS, THE WOMAN BEHIND THE LEGEND*, by MADELINE DEFREES

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

MARIA CALLAS, THE WOMAN BEHIND THE LEGEND*, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Her biographer gives us the woman, the artist
Last Line: To the other side.
Alternate Author Name(s): Mary Gilbert, Sister; De Frees, Madeline
Variant Title(s): Maria Calla, The Woman Behind The Legend
Subject(s): Callas, Maria (1923-1977)

title from the biography by Arianna Stassinopoulos

Her biographer gives us the woman, the artist:
two sides of a coin presenting
contrary faces. She calls the woman Maria,
the artist La Callas, a Greek
bearing gifts to Milan, darling and scourge of
La Scala and not to be trusted. When hecklers
tossed radishes onto the stage
La Callas smiled, ecstatic, gathered them to
her breast like the loveliest

roses. In her
fifties Maria asked, Why doesn't anyone write
an opera for Mary Magdalene? That
vision of washing a god's feet with her tears:
what convincing drama! I could have been
useful there: I carried my mother's genes for
histrionics, tear-ducts the most active
prop in my repertoire. Cried — not just from
remorse, depression, and worse. I cried
from relief, anger,

sudden noise, the exact
turn of a phrase, the terrors and joys
of total understanding. And drying the Savior's
feet with my hair: the image obsessed me,
though my skimpy locks had been
chopped off at three in hopes that short hair
would thicken. All over town, my sister's
luxuriant curls spilled from studio windows on
both sides of the block.

Maria, the man I've
found, man I will never marry,
calls me La Maddalena. My hair on the cutting-
room floor nearly white, it was
late luck invited him in. The art each of us
lives by, a country between us, keeps us
apart. Two faces of one coin at the going rate,
obverse joining reverse, close
to the other side.

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