Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feature: Donna Gagnon Day 4

(a photo Donna took at Disney World, 1990)

Con te partirò
(Time to Say Goodbye)

Just keep sitting there. Yes. Like that. Like you always do. Passive. Waiting. When the star is ready, she will open her mouth as if to scream, move an arm carefully … like this [slash] … you will be momentarily blinded by the stage lights glaring off metal and the action will begin.

As my blood drips, staining the boards, I will hear your breath held so stupidly in check. Trust me. I know, better than you do, what needs to happen next.

My mouth will open wider, my vocal chords will tighten in the way they’ve been trained to and a sound will issue forth, filling this space with pain, heartbreak, regret and your tears will flow freely tonight.

You call me Divina. In your pedestrian memory, I am the exhilarating, brown-eyed Tosca and my heart nests in yours alone. You dream at night about my Elvira, hearing that clear, high E when you ejaculate under the sheets. You know fuck all about me. My real name, my true being, has been lost beneath all of your adulation. I have spent my life trying to please all of you out there. And I’m damned if I understand why.

I can be everyone but never myself. My life onstage is the only real thing, all else is artifice.

I could blame Jackie for my lingering depression. For bringing me to this final performance. That savage way she moved in on Ari when I needed him most … but it wasn’t her fault. He would have turned to anyone after I lost our first child and then couldn’t manage to successfully brew any more of them with him. I deserted my husband and gave myself up to another. Completely and oh so foolishly. Battista? I know you are out there and love me still. With my final breath, I will beg your forgiveness.

Yes, dear audience, this is only the first act in tonight’s opera. But it is my last. Mea culpa. Refunds may be requested at the box office.

I am feeling very weak and must now make my final exit, stage left, whispering my real name. The one none of you could ever pronounce. I am Mary Anna Kalogeropoulos..
Sogni d’oro. Good night.

© Donna Gagnon (from a collection-in-progress entitled Various Dead Voices)

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6. You always seem to prefer short, concise writing, almost a specialty of yours in both poetry and prose, whereas in your early pieces you wrote longer stories. Is this because you have less to say, or just say it better these days?

I look at what I wrote years ago as practice pieces. Those stories never found a market. They lacked tight focus and were too loosely structured. In 2004, I read some amazing flash fiction written by an American writer named Bob Thurber. That turned on the proverbial light bulb for me. I saw the growing market for short fiction, started paring down to essentials and editors began to accept my work for publication. I certainly don't have less to say but hope I've learned to say it with the fewest number of well-chosen words.

7. Your husband reckons the strict formula of the fibonnaci poem is an attraction for you because of your OCD tendencies. Is this true? Or does that just say something about his observational skills?

'Order' is definitely one of my favourite words. When there's too much chaos in my world, I freak out. And, since childhood, I've loved numbers. I used to count the steps ... one, two, three ... whenever I went up or down a staircase. Excel spreadsheets actually turn me on. When I read about Gregory K. Pincus and his 'new' form of poetry, it was a no-brainer that I was about to become addicted to writing Fib poems.

8. Where do you find inspiration? Is it the cause of perspiration? Your hubby says you sweat out every word ...

The things that happen to people and how they cope/react is what inspires me to write. The sweat pours when I struggle to find the right words to describe what's going on with these complicated characters in my head. The OCD thing kicks in when I write. If the words aren't right, I can't keep them. My backspace and delete keys get worn out pretty quick.

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