ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Victoria de los Angeles," a poem by Sarah White


One afternoon, I played an old CD
and let the afternoon be, 
along with evening’s anticipations
whereupon a bough began
to bend as if the song
were snow—Du bist die Ruh,
you are Rest, now lost—
I found myself awash
in thoughts about the man
who died before the man who died
just now, leaving me completely 
on my own to resume
missing someone I had missed 
all the time without knowing.

All the time, without knowing,
I was thinking I would write
a slim, uneven crown
for him to share with Victoria
De Los Angeles.  He had volumes
of her songs, plus a set of blue
World’s Classics and a low-
brow collection of pool cues.
I only kept a few of his CD’s
and hoped he didn’t mind
that I gave most of them away
to a friend who wouldn’t be
as sad as I was when he listened,
though I could be wrong.

I could be wrong about the friend,
who doesn’t always show,
as I don’t always know,
what we’re mourning for. 
He’s the friend to whom  
I sold my grand piano.  
That was months ago. 
I haven’t missed it.  Something
must be wrong with me,
but let that go and notice
how often I use the word
though—I don’t feel at home
though I’ve lived here for years
and even been loved.                    

I have even been loved
by the one who left me
on my own to long for someone
else in my odd way, wanting 
to ask him if he knew
why Victoria De Los Angeles
sang German songs in Spain
in 1944.  Lieder are all
very well, but the timing
seems wrong.  Victoria was young,
though—21.  I was 17 when
I went to Spain, very dumb
about Franco.  I just enjoyed
gazpacho, suckling pig, and the Prado.

Gazpacho, suckling pig, and the Prado—
two of which I’m  proud
to have sampled—all belong
in this lengthening cycle
on Victoria De Los Angeles.
Whatever the soprano sang in ‘44
she’d lived through a Civil War
that could have smothered
a songbird whose mother
was a cleaner, whose father
wasn’t powerful either.  Who
am I to say Victoria performed
for the dictator?  Anyhow,  
Catalans have rules of their own.

Catalans have rules of their own 
and I might send a crown—
this very one—to Barcelona
where my lover and I never
went together.  Oh, we devoted 
afternoons to our planned
travels, possibly to Poland
though it never happened. 
We only combed every second-
hand bookshop in New England 
to complete his blue World’s
Classics series.  True, 
he had dozens at home  
but more than one was missing.   

More than one was missing
on the winter day I listened
to the songs, and through
a window saw the all
but frozen bough bend
lower and lower under pressure
of the news from Victoria
De Los Angeles.  A long,
meandering Kaddish by Ravel
persuaded me that Art
is wise though Rest is lost—
things I knew, ceased
knowing for a time until,
one afternoon, I played an old CD.


Sarah White's recent book, Alice Ages and Ages (Blaze Vox, 2010) was reviewed in Offcourse #44 by Ricardo Nirenberg. She is also author of a poetry collection, Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007), a chapbook, Mrs. Bliss and the Paper Spouses (Pudding House, 2007), and a lyric essay, The Poem Has Reasons: A Story of Far Love (online at She lives, writes, and paints in Manhattan. See her poems in Offcourse #43, "You mean you are allowed to do that?" in #44, "The Devastation of the Indies" in #45 and "Nabokov Writes His Wife From Coker College" in #46.

Return to Offcourse Index.