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Impresario One

Impresario and abstract figures, a crowd of fairgoers, surreal


The care he had taken of her in his first fascination

was a rebuke to him in later years

He feared love, to feel it, a twining tendril’s prod

Her trusting kindnesses make his heart go soft

His mind tainted, a sympathy unnatural

for property; a monstrosity can be bought

for the compensation of a few coins

And why ought it to have a name?

But he began to call her Regalus

As the gawpers would not guess her sex

Used by him, although she faithfully sought

To be of use.

His hunchback (such uninteresting freaks earn nothing)

Could undertake dictation of a letter;

Tortu, once thought an imbecile

But taught a fine hand, clerical

To adapt himself to speechlessness

He did not excuse it

in cyphers, written down…the impresario

Having considered the means by which he might learn her secret—

How she had been born clean; when the curse befell

How she’d come to beg from beggars, kept back

Even from the palings of the shantytown

How long had she lived there, dumb herself and wallowing in mud?

No, in time, under tutelage, she could tell him so

“Tell me this, Regalus…”

“Which is like a bird, returning to its nest?”

The dauphin with his flippered arms possessed

Of a rare, sweet tenor sings to her each saying of Tortu’s

She laughs. “My dear, the letter W”

This is progress, learning. Her thigh touches his

As side by side they share the driver’s bench

Her scabbed pink head and hair that grows in patches

Hid beneath a wayfarer’s woolen cap

Her gaiety on this fair day as their wagonload

Of odd attractions slows

A horde of belled and parti-colored travelers

Push handcarts on the road






In his dreaming calculations lying wakeful

He recalls himself, in this bed built for a dying wife

Never so alive with fear for his charges

He had always paid the roustabouts

To guard the wagon, warned Tortu

Whose wise and solemn eyes obey

To take a crown and buy them cakes

To keep his creatures cloaked and masked

Until the day

Now answering in kind he follows clues

Wordless, the distance tightening

Until the rigid half-circle they’d sketched

Became a letter G

Through the seat of commerce with his spine contracted

By an unexpected terror of its shadowed lanes

He searched for symbols, charcoaled, and at length

Traced a pathway marked in cornerstones

Blacked atop with compass lines

Arrows pointing east

And when he came to a butcher’s stall

Where piglets hung like tally marks, in chords

He ducked behind and found a row of houses

Counted on his left an open courtyard

Counted on his right…one, two, three, four

She had swallowed a wasp on Saint Thomas’s day

Eleven months undelivered

A log of wood burst with a shocking report

Spewing sparks that caught fire among the rushes

A heated swarm escaped

The household in a frenzy as the maid

Had at that moment touched a goblet to her mistress’s lip

All is deathly calm now, the rooms unlit

A wine butt holds the offspring born

Turned inside-out

He has been shown this, cautiously the lid pried loose

“Yes”—his host with timorous courtesies, had laid

His board with a fair day’s bounty

“Yes,” he’d said to the impresario, “if I might not tempt the devil

By showing gold, I would reward you for this kindness.

You deliver me, no less

In taking her from my house.”


part three the impresario



Regalus masked moves lithe through the torchlit throng

Pierre the Seer guides her, brusque in the distance he keeps

But cocksure in his speech, his purpose strong

She pities her poor Tortu and her small Dauphin

Like a mother, she has helped to dress and feed them

She cannot tell the number of her years

Nor what the sphere of water in a well

May teach her

Him she loves with a faith implicit

The master who has gone away

But to Regalus her tortured skin is grace

“For in whom will He make his glory manifest?”

The gentle Abbess, once her almoner, had said

“See, child, how the flower will always be . . . has always been

Our Maker’s Mystery couched in impossibility

Eden within a poppy-seed

Not so large as a grain of sand”


Thus Regalus feels she cannot suffer

Being of all women blessed

And knows one day, when scales are shed

She will sing exaltation


The wax-man is too fat to walk about

Out-bellows the bull in a basso voice

But peals chill harmony, high and deep

While Tortu cradles his lute and plucks

Striking her hip with a tambourine, Regalus dances

While the Dauphin sings

Pierre beats a drum, and a stranger comes to join them

At the fire, bearing a long, stringed box in the shape of

The letter I

She feels an unlooked-for joy


Part Four


(copyright 2016 Stephanie Foster)









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