Prulala Lives, a Meditation on Opera

Fabulon Nipoupski

[August 2013.]

Underdogs have a multilateral appeal. Falling off a roof, one looks about for an underdog. Anyway, there one goes. A cat in a window observes the late-afternoon sun reflecting in one’s eyes. A passerby follows one’s descent with his Rolleiflex, fussing with the focus knob. He anticipates a conclusion.

Now one cannot spare the time. So maybe those were the days. On account of the felons sprawled about the house, mother sees herself as a failure. I gather them up, taking care not to bruise their tender tips, and stack them in a corner.

Not long ago I discovered mother rummaging a hundred furlongs ahead of herself. In view of the moment’s metaphysical complexion, one wonders: what defines her search? One of mother’s putative ladies-in-waiting – that’s the future for you, alive with putativity – provides me with clothing in styles as yet unimagined. Consequently, one has the wardrobe for a life considerably more speculative than the life one leads.

One sometimes engages with women one first observes through one’s periscope. In general, one behaves glandularly. Owing to the periscope’s narrow field of vision, one loses sight of the big picture, e.g., failing to note in the mountain range out there on the horizon, the inflatable kind one orders from a camping-goods catalog, a pouch in a valley ideal for rearing children.

One’s feet stipple the no longer distant vista. One is too proud to ask people walking who knows where, ‘Can you point me in another direction?’

The least engaging of mother’s putative ladies-in-waiting introduces one to a tribe one assumed was extinct, the Ugh-Excised Underdogs. One stifles the urge to say ‘How!’ yet one is uncertain that one is behaving like the sophisticate one aims at becoming.

In the matter of sophistication, the man wearing the wrong head degrades his reputation among thoughtful people by presuming the remedy to lie in a hairpiece. The key to transparency is more elusive than a bug in a tree.

They are humorless, these bugs, down there on the leafless carpet in the middle of the night, where, to be fair, they’re no more trouble than seated in tiny highchairs at two in the afternoon, awaiting developments.

One remembers starving when father neglected to pay the bills. Mother would knock him to the floor, run up and down the length of him and slam the trapdoor on his head till his neglectfulness subsided.

It’s actually Helmut who recites the family’s checkered history in the parlor where guests contemplate father astride a papier-mâché decoy.

One adjusts the vista. The aspects are there, like a language. One calls it parsing the view. Just parsing through. Passersby and lily pads.

One tells people one’s penis takes a size 17 collar and favors colorful bowties. One has little else to make oneself intriguing.

One sits behind a waterfall looking ectoplasmic.

The thing is, one comes first. One is the 1st person, even here at the bottom of Column A, where one really doesn’t care what anybody thinks.

‘Yes!’ exclaims an underdog. ‘These utterances embroider a theme I find to my taste.’ Clearly, this is a sophisticated underdog. We favor the company of sophisticated underdogs, even stitched up inside their carcasses like the last grand flourish of a surgical procedure, even with their persons caroming dodecaphonically.

One whups an underdog’s head upside. While one’s not sure that’s quite the way one puts it, one really has no desire for underdog fluency. Nor does one much fuss over underdog sentimentality, tho one understands that prayer and substandard English offer certain comforts. Here, for example, pointing upward, is an ambiguous enterprise zone. ‘If I ever said such a thing, my flock would depart in a huff,’ an ordained shepherd observes. He used to be a shy boy, this ordained shepherd, an underdog with an ordained shepherd’s crook and syrinx, and the kind of outer garment one sees in Christmas cards. He used to ride by in a sack. ‘I am riding by wildly,’ one would hear him shout. One never quite knew where the news was coming from.

It would be helpful to stand on the roof to see what comes next. For example, 1000 billion airborne aspirin. They thought it was snow, the first they’d ever seen. They spread salt. So that makes 1000 billion lightly salted aspirin blanketing a distant place.

Tolstoy said, ‘Spray the gentry with sweat and manure, sprinkle the serfs with rosewater. Then let’s talk about attitude.’

A crowd contemplates a stand-in astride a papier-mâché decoy. Chinese mists arise from the gorge. Someone initiates a group sing: ‘O How I Cherish Arranging Flowers with My Hussar’s Lance,’ thence to the anthem, ‘Owing to Our Fatherland’s Clement Climate, the Flowers Are Always There, with a Standard of Deportment to Which All Aspire!’

One sticks one’s index finger in a grommet.

All that remains is the reverberation of one’s having performed ‘The Iconoclast Vanishes’ in a cistern. Let’s clear that up. The iconoclast indeed vanished but not necessarily where one takes a number, sits and waits. In the way of small pleasures, one remarks one’s song’s lengthy decay in the cistern in which an iconoclast is either present or absent.

One stands, arms out, palms upward, anticipating. One is a futurist. We futurists have the properties of seeds.

In your hillbilly hat with corncob pipe and turkey feather, you will fit right in to lawn parties attended by people who look to you as a fresh source of merriment. Don’t sulk, we were all stupid once. Nothing to be ashamed of. Wear your hillbilly hat with an easy conscience, eat ribs and walk in a spiral which will carry you to a boomtown where the music of celebration will go through you like x-rays.

Then we shall embrace a daintier you, how young, how charming, as the decorative boomtown herons collapse.

And only now do the golden underdogs, their bellies awash in brazen moles, tear themselves from their families’ bosoms and bellow like regretful incompetents.

The decorative boomtown herons collapse, one is old, empty sleeves. This, despite everything, is an authentic imagining in which an underdog is made to look enigmatic. There is no apparent sense of strain, neither is there expense.

The incense rises in a thick lilac haze. One gazes at one’s reflection in the lagoon’s mirror calm.

In the larger picture, one is less than a duster’s feather snagged on a hinge of an old Chinese screen covered with depictions of mist-enshrouded mountains. The trick in these landscapes is to locate the poet. Sometimes they’re so well integrated into the scenery, these poets, one never finds them. One is reminded of the whoosh a wind-turbine makes.

When Aleuts were new to their island chain, Piltdown Man lay in wait. No Aleut could withstand him! He slew them to crimson mists with sweeping disciplinary glances. Aleuts fled when they saw the brute charging or indeed when they thought he might have it in mind to charge. During a fragile truce, Piltdown Man reveals an elaborately decorated breastplate. On one quadrant, forged to resemble a giant amusement shovel, we see a repoussé hand pointing at a repoussé sea.

Piltdown Man’s masseuse arrives. He tosses her coat in the crapper. For Piltdown Man, conventions are instantaneous, to hell with precedents. If one has to ask, one is insufficiently steeped in Piltdownmenschkeit. Everything else goes to the Salivation Army. And you, tardy underdog, you missed the boat, so you while away your days with that peculiar dockside look, as though somewhere about your person a clue to the question, Is there Life after Departure? Worth living, that is. And behind you, the old cottage. And behind the old cottage, you again, underdog, listening to the aspens sigh.

Emotion in opera is paramount. We are interested not so much in what our hero, heroine or villain may do as in how he or she feels before, during and after the action. When Piltdown Man learns that Prulala has been captured – remember, he supposes her to be his mother – his thoughts turn to incest, but rather than dashing off as one would in life, he steps stage front and sings of his mad desire.

The aria ‘Tell me of my placenta’ shows as plain as music may that Prulala has stolen Piltdown Man’s heart, exclusive of aorta.

Gypsy smugglers descend from the hills, dragging female acquisitions. Then follows the first of the beautiful quartets for which this act is famous, ‘This is your hovel now.’

The noise mother and father make collapsing on the piano when one tells them one’s adopted, that’s music too.

Like rocks in flight, enthusiasts come and go. From the orchestra pit rises the tragic motive of vengeance, jealousy and death booming forth throughout the dark forest.

We see these things more clearly on paper.

After Pseudonymous Pierre bloodies the nose of his twin, Legally Binding Pierre, he stomps melons plump with seed. Thus from snits do harvests arrive.

We slink about the dark forest, clinging to the margins. It is difficult to ignore the creamy spots.

They are young, etc., they dine off placemats.

One discovers the bride among the Hmong.

You recall the focus knob a passerby fussed with.

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