Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SURFACES AND MASKS; 12, by CLARENCE MAJOR

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

SURFACES AND MASKS; 12, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: The theme of carnevale is a secret
Subject(s): Carnivals; Venice, Italy

The theme of Carnevale is a secret
this year.
You have to guess; play the game!
The mystery is the main
You do see various variations
of classic figures:
Doctor of the Plague
Rotunello -- in baggy pants
carrying a string
of sausage
-- from Roma,
of course.
And kindly Bertolado
on donkeyback. He comes here
from Bologna... with:
Dottore Balanzone --
serious-minded fella,
this one.
He spills red wine
on his white collar;
takes his cape off and places it over
a puddle
so that native Signora Rosawra
may cross. Others --
Lucinda, Isabella,
Flaminia --
follow her lead.
Poor Dottore Balanzone!
(Meanwhile, nobody
puts down a cape
for Colombina
to cross the puddle on.
Faggiolino suggests
she take off her apron
and spread it over
the water.
The crowd laughs.)
And those from Bergamo --
Brighetta, first.
A pirate with a long
twisted nose
and a dagger in his belt,
he'll cut your throat
for two hundred lire
or less.
And Scapino,
in blue. Well dressed.
Yank his cape.
And Messetino!
Pluck the strings
of his guitar!
Dance with him, in
his red-balloon outfit.

Arlecchino --
harlequin, spotted
and sporting the feather
from the tail of a green-headed
that has come on the wind
from Siberia for the winter.
Introduced by Goldoni
the spectators cheer.
Only one Bronx cheer.
That overall is a good reception.

in black mask
and white shirt and pants.
Meo Squacquera (from
Calabria) with sword
from his hip -- mouth free
of the long-nosed mask --
cape flying behind him
as he dances violently
to a music imported
all the way from China.
Then to music from Spain,
where the bulls
used to come from.

Proud -- unmasked -- Lelio,
native, leans on his cane,
Bagottino and Meo S. make fools
of themselves.

Little Captain Spaventa (of
struts about
with hands on hips,
cape dragging,
feathers in his band
so long they dangle
in his face.

Playful boy yanks Glanduia's pigtail
and he loses his Torino cool,
tries to catch the culprit
but the kid is
a breakdancer
who has developed
a running ability
equal to the East Bronx's

You will take a sip
of the brisk wine
Meneghino offers you.
He comes from Milano
with the kegs on his donkey.
He drinks to your health.
You had better drink
to his, too.

If you meet Patacca
in a dark calle,
walk sideways, and pray.
And these ones from the South --


What can I say?
Dance barefoot with one,
tap your walking stick
with the other,
exchange knickers
with still
Clown! Snatch a skullcap
from a dwarf.
And the natives --
bearded and caped
Florindo --
like a French madame
in riding britches -- carrying
a proper crop.

And the others --
funny-faced guy
in orange vest
under his blue suit.
Firenze accent...

Tartaglia -- of Campania.
Dance with him
at the ball.
His yellow stripes
will dazzle
Dance with Pugantino
on your shoulder.
He will enjoy
the ride.

Then when the formal parade
has passed
you realize how relaxed everybody is.
Nobody pushes.

But nowadays this is the way
it is:
Under a flimsy pink parasol,
held above his head,
he walks proudly
through the campo --
a black silk mask
covers his face.
Tucked beneath his silk
hat, and covering the sides
of his face, a piece of old lace:
unless you know his walk
you cannot guess.
He holds the hand
of a clown
with a big red nose.
You snap
their picture.

Carnevale is not
yet defeated, though
it's raining cats
and --

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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