Excerpt from Chlora’s Grand Detour: Rome
Draft 1, Feb 2014, copyright Ginger Henry Geyer
That first evening in Rome they were taken to
the Baths of Caracalla for an opera.
Chlora was confused. Did people have to bathe
before operas, sort of like Muslims do
before they go to pray?
Surely opera had nothing to do with prayer.
The only one she’d ever heard of
had to do with a deflated mouse.
On the way to the big bath
their bus got stuck in traffic
because there was a protest in the street.
Apparently that was a common annoyance
but sitting up in a high seat, Chlora could tell
that the marchers were more than annoyed.
They were solemnly singing, waving signs,
and being politely ignored.
She asked what they wanted.
The tour guide replied that they were
atypical Italian protestors
who were quoting early 1900’s marchers
from a textile strike. They wanted
both bread and roses, to share in life’s glories,
for bodies starve but souls do too.
They were almost late for the opera
and had to dash in as the orchestra tuned up.
They scurried down rough paths
between impossibly tall
trees, those elegant umbrella pines,
two neat rows of them like matching waiters
at a banquet, balancing trays of drinks
on their fingertips, high above the heads
of the crowd.
Chlora picked up a gigantic pine cone.
If it fell on your head from way up there,
it’d knock you out cold.
They entered a big, old outdoor amphitheatre
that didn’t resemble any sort of
bathing place she’d ever seen,
and fortunately people had their clothes on.
Ladies all around were dressed in sparkly shawls
and jewels, men in shiny shoes and suits.
Their chatting stopped abruptly
as the lights beamed on.
All sat down and began fanning the still air
to bring on more music. Chlora and the tour group
were urgently shuffled to rows near the front.
The opera was called Tosca, according to their
tour guide, and it would be sad.
It started off well enough, and Chlora’s senses
were bedazzled with the setting, the costumes,
the sounds. Things got tense.
That lady sure could belt it out
for someone who was supposed to be sick.
Or maybe she was just heartsick.
Chlora’s jet lagged eyes sagged,
she missed out on all the drama
and slept away an expensive ticket.
Applause and bravos awoke her,
and roses were flying through the air.
Onstage the smiling diva,
who just came back from the dead,
collected as many bouquets as she could handle.
Chlora retrieved one in the aisle.
Roses, long stemmed and dark pink,
good for the heart.
Chlora figured she could add some
skinny grissini Italian breadsticks
to the bouquet at dinner, and
if those strikers were still at it,
she would give the bouquet to them.
Roses for Mary, bread for Jesus,
all for both and both for all.
Bread And Roses
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, 'Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.'
As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men-
For they are women's children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes-
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew-
Yes, bread we fight for-but we fight for Roses, too.
As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days-
The rising of the women means the rising of the race-
No more the drudge and idler-ten that toil where one reposes-
But sharing of life's glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!
- James Oppenheim