Richard W Halperin – Capriccio Revisited

Halperin LE P&W April 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2023

Capriccio Revisited, poems by Richard W. Halperin.

Capriccio Revisited

A man or less than that sits in his room
at nightfall, parachutefall, folds of silk
settling around his ankles, the plane gone,
the pilot irrelevant. He listens to
Strauss sung by Lisa Della Casa,
silver voice, silver music written when
there were – and there were – extermination camps.
Capriccio and skulls, a century folds in
around the ankles of a man lucky enough
to have a room. Night rises on the pegs of
the voice of Della Casa, whom, quite real,
he heard once in New York when almost everyone
was still alive. A man in his chair, and death
or less than that.

A Canticle for Harry

My friend Harry said ‘Don’t make it
too personal,’ so I won’t. Forty years ago
I found him dead. His beautiful heart
had stopped. There is, in a universe
of space and stars, a paucity of poetry
about friendships. Less difficult, perhaps,
in prose: Pope’s letters to Swift.
Elizabeth Bennett and Charlotte Lucas
in Pride and Prejudice.

Centuries before Proust and Virginia Woolf,
the anonymous author of The Cloud
of Unknowing observes that we are all
composed of time. You were composed
of time, Harry, as was I. There – that’s not
too personal, is it?

Peter Grimes II

‘Wrapp’d in kindness like September haze,’
Peter Grimes muses, putting words on his
hopes for a happy marriage. The doomed Peter.

Callas, in her last radio interview, said that
in books and scores by masters, if one looks
for beauty, one finds it. I think of this this night
as, three thousand miles away, my mother-in-law
lays dying, her adopted son at her side.

Good poetry – Montagu Slater’s and Britten’s –
dissolves the difference between observation
and consolation, in a world where the answer
to when will they ever learn is NEVER.

Wrapp’d in kindness. Quite real. Have you
ever tried to squeeze September haze?

The Death of Dali 2

I remember always Dali, with Gala,
at The Russian Tea Room. Dali.
He is still here. Whatever took place
in Figueras may have been for
the media. That New York hasn’t died,
it arrives unannounced in my flat.
Dali as well. He and The Russian
Tea Room were part of my life.
Of our life, my wife’s and mine.
Our waiter, handsome and middle-aged,
had been, as a youth, Dali’s model for
Christopher Columbus in the painting
‘The Discovery of America’ –
Columbus a young man, because
discovery is young. I do have to mention
as well the Dali crucifixion in
the Metropolitan Museum –Jesus
barely attached to a cross made up
of huge beautiful cubes floating
in infinite space, a woman in
flowing robes looking up at it.
In 1975 I brought my friend Harry
to the Russian Tea Room for his
birthday – his last one on earth,
as it turned out. We were seated
next to Maureen Stapleton, and talked
with her about a marvellous short-lived
play she had just been in, The Secret
Affairs of Mildred Wild. But I digress.
Dali, did I say? Well, The Russian
Tea Room. Floating in infinite space,
a woman looking up at it.

© Richard W. Halperin

Richard W. Halperin’s poems are published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher and by Lapwing/Belfast. Salmon has listed Selected & New Poems for Autumn 2023; it will draw upon poems from Mr. Halperin’s four Salmon and sixteen Lapwing collections, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. A new Lapwing, The Painted Word, will appear this Spring.

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