Anne-Marie Levine


I was happy once for nine days.
My housekeeper found a novena for hopeless cases
on her seat in church,
a prayer to be recited every day for nine days,
and she thought she might as well say it for me
since I had been complaining of hard times.
She apologized for calling me a hopeless case
when she told me about it,
but I said I would accept help in any form.

During those nine days
my relations with a lover went very well,
I thought, too well as it turned out.
I gave an inspired performance of a great piano concerto in Texas.
And the first morning in the hotel, when the toilet wouldn’t flush
after I had filled it with fecal matter and menstrual blood,
the gentle Mexican man with impeccable manners
to whom I apologized when he came up to fix it
said don’t worry, no problem, have a nice day.

I wore a green and purple dress to the concert
and no one criticized my attire or my playing.
Indeed they said the colors of my dress were spiritual,
that I created sounds of such power and beauty that I cast
a hypnotic spell over the audience. It was a love affair—
with the orchestra, the conductor, the critics. With my lover too,
as long as I stayed away. But when I returned he fled,
saying he’d been having too many erotic dreams about me,
I was becoming an addiction, he couldn’t handle it.
That was the tenth day.

So then things went back to normal.
The critics wrote about my hair, did it hide my face,
was it too long; they criticized my clothes,
said there were too many women on that year’s subscription list,
blamed my playing for Chopin’s skimpy orchestration.
The men in my life were skittery again.
I wanted Maureen to say the novena again,
but she said she couldn’t, because after nine days of happiness,
I wasn’t a hopeless case anymore.