Seeing Madame Butterfly
For God’s sake, this is wrong. She’s fifteen, caught in a follow spot
of voyeuristic pity. Houselights barely dimmed, we’re ogling.
Where’s her mother when the ship of love glides in, gross
with steam and angles? Men in suits collude. The girl just…sings.
Hell, she’s fallen for him: Christian, kind, unthinking. Bastard.
We understand the score but, swooned in music, all we do is snivel.
Cho-Cho-San, you know the delicate placing of a cup, not America!
I want to shout my warnings across custom, time. At the interval,
staggering out for air in London’s fetid night, I hear a man roar
at a woman’s sobs, fear I’ve learned little from my own fool’s games.
That’s when I’m sure I see her. Knelt on the stage door step, bent
over brush and paper, she’s writing with her deft calligrapher’s hand
in fast, light flashes, undoing her story like a star’s collapse till, quick
as a kingfisher, her blue kimono flickers out of sight. Back on stage,
here’s Pinkerton again, his wife, their offer. In some other universe—
in us, the orchestra, the dumbstruck cast—the music soars as Butterfly
stands up. Her eyes blaze refusal. While the drab-clothed couple stutter
their remorse, she turns and clasps her little boy. She will not let him go.
Sarah Wedderburn lives and writes in Kent.