Seeing Madame in the Black Hills of the Dakotas

“What are you doing here?”
I asked the imperious head
on its dusty shelf.

We had driven all day
through the Black Hills
of the Dakotas.

A sign had led us below the cliffs
where the head of Crazy Horse
was emerging from the rock face.

We wandered into the artist’s studio,
examining the work,
some finished, some in progress.

She surveyed the scene without a word,
looking unmoved at the various pieces
of Crazy Horse strewn about the studio.

But it was certainly Madame,
though not the one I knew,
this one beautiful as only the young can be.

It must have been just after she fled
the revolution, fleeing St. Petersburg
with father, his violin, her voice.

In Cambridge later she told me of meeting
a young sculptor who made a bust of her--
she had forgotten it.

I learned this between admonitions to
“keep the throat open”
“reach down for the high notes”

I searched her face for the young woman
who sang in Russian, French, Greek, not English,
her head searching the skies.

Lari Smith