( * Financially, Peter (Pyotr) Tchaikovsky, the famous Russian composer, was supported by Nadezhda von Meck, a wealthy widow, for thirteen years. Without a romantic attachment involved, they exchanged a torrid correspondence throughout that period, and Tchaikovsky was deeply wounded when Madame von Meck withdrew her support, possibly due to financial set-backs, perhaps because she found out about Tchaikovsky's homosexuality. Despite her reasons, one version of the story about Tchaikovsky's death says that he repeatedly spoke her name while in a delirium during his final illness.)
... *Prince Kiyama boiling up
stirring the featherless soup
black cat-bone stew
seething omens of steam
acrid Big Easy incense
dervishing above the bayous
fangs of the city
inoculation of sorrow
clinging to the street car of Desire
racing to the Cemetery
and churches beyond with windows of
altars of Russian-consecrated
sweet Pyotr Tchaikovsky's murmuring
rending the veil of white requiem:
''Nadezhda, Nadezhda, Nadezhda!''
come back to me! -
I want to see the hem of
your skirt flirting with
your flashing ankles
in your venom dance
to a da-whomp, da-whomp yammering orchestra
of owls, hyenas, jackals, cats, wolverines, coyotes, frogs, dogs and
screaming the *B-Street tango
along the barren ribs of night
through the bleeding noon,
chaotic twitching of feline tail
sweeping the roof
nadezhda-eyes staring at the *Union Depot
across the street,
yes! - yes! - want to see the hem of your skirt
flirting with your ankles
flashing like fangs
in your venom dance,
pearl flesh - and
clack your heels on the marble floor
of the White Nights palace!
chickity tickity tick tock time
glaring back at the B-street roof-top cat
ready to spring to the roof
of the street car Desire,
cruising madly, careening sweetly
toward collision with
the street car adorned
with announcement of Cemetery
death warrant translucently glaring
in dripping crystal -
Nadezhda, Nadezhda, come back to me!
lest the yammering be choked by essence of brimstone,
Can you feel the veins of it?
creesh crash crickity crockity
doo-whomp whompity oola
dingidee donga bonga
hola slappidy slippidy whippidy
clickity click clack chickity tick tock
bong - bong - bong
*tar-pants Madman with coal-blazing eyes
teetering atop his conga drum
with feet too mercurial to punch
through its head: Bangada bangada
bong bong bong
B-Street blues hypnotized, baptized by dripping crystal enlivening
Prince Kiyama's fingers
stripping, ripping feathers from the chicken
maniacal struts of demonic flight
for coronation on his head
caressing the coon-dick realms of beyond
before stroking the feathers with one hand
stirring the soup with the other
tilting his ear toward the city
chanting his name
Prince Kiyama, Chicken Man!
The King Of New Orleans Bayou Voodoo Magic!
while a roar ripples along Union Avenue
Give us The Blues Mojo Okie Snake-Oil Madman!
the people of the city gave him that name!
reverberations quivering away in thunder
rising to a wail,
I want to see your ankles flashing
like the fangs of love
igniting Bourbon Street!
rattle the stones!
shatter the silence!
rapturous rupture through The Garden Of Bones!
while above the bangada bong bong bong
all that can be heard is: Chickity
clickity click clack clack
chickity clickity click clack clack
yeah, oh, yeah, such stinging music
ringing assault of rhythm!
for white-haired Peter, sweet Peter
is King of the Parade
his magnificent head resting in the arms of
The Nutcracker knighted Clown of Fat Tuesday,
striding down Bourbon Street
his tears coming to rest in Peter's hair
the roof-top cat launching herself
midst the clanging of bells
atop the street car of Desire
reeling past the wreckage
destination - Cemetery!
mocked by fangs of love: Chickity
clickity click clack clack
haunted by the frenzied flailing
of Madman hands: Bangada bangada
bong bong bong
bathed in ecstatic sighs
Prince Kiyama, Chicken Man,
The King of the Bayou
New Orleans Voodoo Magic
quaffing the limpid essence
of black cat bones
simmering omens above the bayous
dervishing above the fangs
of love - a yearning whisper:
''Don't stop, Nadezhda!
Nadezhda, I'm getting close
the silence is ravishing like your lips, your eyes, your face and
thrust the bitter fangs even deeper and I shall rest,
and... now... now you can rest your weary feet
until the dance's final call,
but listen, Nadezhda, for one last time
to my voice, to the clickity click of black cat bones,
to the Chicken Man voodoo beat,
to the blues rhythms
of my lilting music
the speaking thunder
of my drum: Bangada bangada
bong bong bong
bong... bong... bong''...
* Prince Kiyama Chicken Man: a colorful figure, now deceased,
on the New Orleans voodoo scene
*The Union Depot: former train station in Pueblo, Colorado
*B-street; Union Ave: streets in Pueblo
*tar-pants Madman: blues poet Tony Moffeit of Pueblo
* * *
By the time Madame Von Meck declined any more financial support for him, Tchaikovsky had become famous enough to sustain himself until he died in 1893, seven days before which he conducted the Moscow premiere of his 6th. symphony, The Pathetique, quoting the Russian Requiem and receiving a mixed reaction. According to a story propagated by his family and/or doctor, his death was a result of him treating indigestion by mixing soda bicarbonate with a glass of unboiled water during a cholera epidemic. Scholars, however, think there's good reason to believe that he committed suicide, perhaps with a gun, for reasons that remain unclear though possibly relating to his sexual orientation. Due to his being a beloved figure throughout his Motherland, the audience was reduced to tears when a repeat performance of The Pathetique was given nine days after he died - and the work is still considered a masterpiece.
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