My Bellini Dream

You came to me once in a dream
sat at the foot of my bed
balanced your gentle hand on my knee
and sang:

Vaga luna, che inargenti
Queste rive e
Questi fiori
Ed inspiri agli
Il linguaggio

The mournful tone
of your warm baritone voice
comforted me;
the gift of a lullaby from a child
to his grieving mom.

When you finished
I awoke and
you disappeared
and I closed my eyes
to summon you:

“Keep singing, Zach,
Come back…….”
but you were gone.

I didn’t recognize your haunting melody
but eagerly needed to hear it again
to know what those Italian words meant
why this music, in particular, appeared in my slumber.

Hence, I repeatedly hummed and
memorized its intervals
long enough to find the piece
in your bedroom
among stacks of sheet music
books and video games.

The composer, Vincenzo Bellini
died young
his now famous arietta
was published by loved ones
three years post mortem.

And, you, Zach,
a ghost now beyond the grave
implore me with these lyrics
to act as a messenger
to your lover
with words of anguish and despair
sorrow over your sudden departure
over the space of distance and time
hoping for a future reunited
and thus, I comply.

testimonio or sei tu sola
del mio fervido desir,
ed a lei che m’innamora
conta i palpiti e i sospir.

Dille pur che lontananza
il mio duol non può lenire,
che se nutro una speranza,
ella è sol nell’avvenir.

Dille pur che giorno e sera
conto l’ore del dolor,
che una speme lusinghiera
mi conforta nell’amor.

Taken from Vaga luna, che inargenti by Vincenzo Bellini (1838) International Music Score Library Project

Bass River in Mourning

Crowds diminish in late August
few boats travel up river now
schools and jobs call folks home

Canadian geese travel north across the channel
without worry, and armies of fiddler crabs
take back what is theirs, coming out
of their sandy pillboxes
filling the beach like sunbathers

The tide continues to come and go as always
yet only a single seagull keeps watch
on grandpa’s piling like a sentry
Blue jays cackle and caw from nearby trees
and the briny smell of low tide fills the air

Your tender heart stopped beating
on an evening like this
a fire-engine sunset marked your departure
a gentle easy going breeze stroked our faces
a playful ripple of waves, like gesturing hands
said goodbye

I think of you now
fixing grandpa’s aluminum boat
stuffing penny candy wax bottles into its holes
covering them with duct tape, working hard
with childlike excitement to make it sea worthy

I see you with Miranda, your sister and playmate
on two yellow beach chairs laughing hysterically
paddling against a molasses current
with heavy wooden oars, always finding
a simple way to have fun with what life gave you

A Bass River Departure

When you died, your grandparents
sat day after day in silence
staring at the horizon
looking at your boat, tied rope to piling
rocking gently with the waves

It reminds me of ancient Egyptians
who buried their dead
on the Nile’s west bank
believing the afterlife was located
where the sun died each day

They built funerary Felucca’s
made of wood and papyrus reeds
filled them with beer and bread
to carry a pharaoh’s coffin across river
manned by boatmen with oars and
dog at the bow to direct them

Legend says they traveled twelve
dark hours from setting to rising sun
stopping at Abydos, the holy site
of Osiris, God of the Underworld

On your last visit home, you readied
your boat for your final journey
The elders know this. They keep watch now
traveling inward with you
on their own unspeakable journey
willing your beloved soul
safe passage

MELISSA D. BURRAGE is a historian and author of The Karl Muck Scandal: Classical Music and Xenophobia in World War 1 America ( She began writing poetry in earnest after her twenty-two-year-old son died in a tragic motorcycle accident in his final semester of college. Melissa takes great comfort writing about family in beloved New England settings. She is a member of the Westwood Poetry Group, the Marge Piercy Poetry Group, and is a 2022 winner of the Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest. Her work can be found in Paterson Literary Review, Portrait of New England Literary Magazine, Wood Cat Review, Poetica Review, Foyer Magazine, Syncopation Literary Journal, Sweety Cat Press, Dashboard Horus Travel Blog, Cephalopress Border and Belonging Anthology, New Hampshire’s Smoky Quartz Tenth Anniversary Literary Anthology, Duality Literary Anthology, and Southern Arizona Press Anthology: The Poppy: A Symbol of Remembrance.

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