Patrick Donnelly

Prayer at the Opera

I had already been weeping quietly

for half an hour at the Academy of Music

by the time Ulysses finally made it home

disguised as a beggar.  He was begging

for his son to recognize him, to know him,

and the boy longed to, but a whole kingdom

hung on this, and he was afraid to love a fraud.


When the Croatian baritone

stretched out his hand to the boy,

quivering thin and lonely

on the other side of the stage,

and sung his name softly,

Telemaco, Telemaco, mio diletto,

it was as if the floor of the world

tilted the boy into his arms,


and because I thought I heard my father calling,

I thought all voices were my voice begging

You, who made it easy for me to weep:

lend the gift of tears

to a man my mother said cried two times,

when Kennedy was shot,

and at my birth.




“Prayer at the Opera” is from The Charge (Ausable Press, 2003).