Donald Williams

A Frontier Magic Flute

Die Zauberflöte had it wrong. Mozart
And Schikaneder should have looked ahead
Fifty-some years to Central Texas, when
The Parker girl, age nine, was grabbed away
From her unqueenly Texas mother. So
Pamina’s captors from Sarastro’s realm
Must kick her face in, give this child no food
For five days, later make her toil amid
The other women, skinning, butchering,
Drying the meat of massive buffalo
Killed by triumphant men as their one duty
Other than stealing horses, slaves, and children
Like Cynthia Ann-Pamina, who, brought up
By her devout, not coloratura mother
In Baptist shushings of bad words and thoughts,
Is now called bitch and whore by the few men
Who have picked up a little frontier English.
Such is her life in these new holy halls
Where all men know revenge and few know love.
True, this Sarastro must have shown a real
Love for Pamina, since he married her
And her alone, while others of that realm
And of his rank had four, five working wives.
Keep his sublime descending arias,
But have Captain Tamino all unmoved,
All undeterred by them from what he sees
As his God-given duty, to remove
Pamina from the heathens. Let him twang
His Bildniss aria out in Ranger style
And not adopt her captors’ ways but seize
And take this unwashed, greasy-haired Pamina
Back to her Queen-of-the-Day, hymn-singing aunts,
To houses, baths, and not a lot less toil
Than she in that last previous life had done.
Then have Pamina-Cynthia pine for home,
Those buffalo-hide-sided holy halls
Among the tipis where blood, dirt, and feathers
Kept her too busy to consider how
She used to live (and now again is living):
Milk pails to scrub, butter to churn, the clothes
To scour on washboards, wring, hang out to dry,
She thinking only what the Scriptures told
Her and the other Parkers they must think.
Back in that first life now, you Flöte framers,
She sings her Ach, ich fühl’s, but not about
Tamino, aka Sul Ross. About
Sarastro-Peta, the majestic basso
And father of her children. Him and them
She loves, and not the life with which the Ranger
Thought he was blessing her, the life from which
She tries and tries to sneak away and, failing,
Cuts short her grieving hair in tribal style
And dies, Cynthia-Pamina far from home.

 

***

Donald Mace Williams, a Texan, is a retired newspaper writer-editor and journalism professor. He has a book of poetry, Wolfe and Other Poems, and two novels. His poems and translations have run in about forty magazines, including Rattle, Measure, Barrow Street, American Arts Quarterly, and Metamorphoses. His Ph.D. from the University of Texas is on the line structure of Beowulf.

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