The organ grinder sets up his pitch at dawn
opposite the Hotel Belvedere Du Mer,
and waits. His monkey, in a sullied red cap
with tarnished bells, scrabbles, beside the corniche,
among the beds of white oleander.
The hotel doorman sends a page boy across
with a message and a coin. He watches –
shielding his eyes from the sea’s dazzle –
as the boy speaks to the organ grinder,
who completely ignores him. He returns,
with the coin, embarrassed and affronted.
The doorman watches the organ grinder,
who continues to stare, as he has since dawn,
at the drawn blinds and the shut windows
of the hotel’s Seraglio Suite,
where the Prince is dying…
We should assume
that all the characters in this story
have names that were bestowed at birth or
in captivity – or have been acquired –
though we will not learn their names. We might
also have assumed thus far in the story
that all the characters are male –
but the page boy is the doorman’s
pre-pubescent daughter with hair cut short,
and the monkey is the matriarch
of a small colony of capuchins
the organ grinder keeps in a deserted
mosque near the docks…
There is traffic now
on the corniche, and hurrying workers
along the promenade, briefly curious
about the silent organ grinder,
and his monkey busy among the flowers.
A cab stops at the hotel. The doorman descends
to greet the Prince’s prodigal daughter,
whom, we may assume, both has a name
and is the gender she chooses to be.
A low sided wagon passes, carrying
a tethered, blinkered, braying donkey.
Suddenly the blinds are raised in the suite,
and a nun opens the long windows wide –
to let the Prince’s soul return to his
vine-covered estates beyond the mountains,
or banish the lingering smell of death,
and replace death’s rattle with the sea’s soft roar.
The grinder begins to turn the organ’s wheel,
and along the corniche and through the town’s
boulevards and alleyways the plangent
music plays of Desedemona’s
final aria from Verdi’s ‘Otello’:
‘Hail Mary, full of grace, chosen among wives
and virgins…’ From among the oleanders
the matriarchal monkey emerges,
removes her worn cap and bells, and capers.