My Vibrato by Alison Luterman

My Vibrato

My singing teacher says uncontrolled vibrato
is insecurity wearing a frilly blouse,
like the upspeak of a nervous student
peppering everything she says with kind of and you know.
He says commit to each note like you mean it,
and I agree, I want to make a pure tone
without apology or wavering,
or bleating like a nanny goat, but oh,
as I ascend past F and then G into the attic
of my upper register I feel things begin to throb
and not in a good way.
Here comes my vibrato
like a teetering pile of red Jell-O,
or a drunken ex-girlfriend at the wedding,
smeared lipstick and too much perfume.
And yes, I’m embarrassed to be wobbling around
like a little girl wearing her mother’s high heels,
but doesn’t everything on earth
vibrate with a mortal shudder?
Candle flickers, moonlight shivers the pond,
and even long-dead stars
pulsate in their inky firmament.
It’s only the angels who do not sweat or bleed,
whose pudenda are smooth as Barbie dolls,
whom you’ll find singing hosannas forever
each note steady as a laser beam,
never trembling or flinching.


Alison Luterman has published four previous collections of poetry, most recently In the Time of Great Fires (Catamaran Press,) and Desire Zoo (Tia Chucha Press.) Her poems have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Sun, Rattle, and elsewhere. She writes and teaches in Oakland, California.

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