Nightclub Singer

a poem by Jan Oskar Hansen

In Trieste, a sniper’s shot from the former Yugoslavia,
at a table under the shade of a parasol that extolled Martini Bianc,
drinking red wine so rough, that it felt like sand paper,
but so cheap that it was almost free,
clearing my throat for my next assignment as a nightclub singer.
The night before I had been pelted with rotten tomatoes
when singing Norwegian psalms yet,
the manager of the club (nothing more than a barn reeking of sheep)
thought the evening had been a great success
and asked me to sing again.

The beautiful fat lady from Beograd,
who had an act with four poodles that could jump trough rings
and walk on their hind legs, told me
that he had ordered crates of soft tomatoes
and places them at the entrance.
The money was good (free booze helped)
there is a certain dignity of being the clown,
standing alone and serious on stage while the others laughed,
after all, the fat lady from Beograd wore leotard on stage
and looked majestically dignified.
I was on my fourth glass of wine when she came striding down the avenue
sat down by my table, ordered hot chocolate
with lashes of cream and said,
“Why don’t come with me to Rome this afternoon,
you can’t sing but you are good with dogs
I saw your dignity fall like broken glass last night
and if that continues you may one day find pieces missing
when you try to assemble your inborn nobleness again”
(Being Slavic she tended to use grandiose words)
Later that evening, on the train to Rome grooming her dogs,
I wondered who was going to be pelted with tomatoes,
meant for me, that night.