A Ballad

You know when a person is telling you the saddest story ever. The emotion is visible, in their aged hands, their crumbling lips – but most of all in the sacred tone of their pleas. It’s as though these tones are more than words – they are universals. They are known by every creature on this planet.

This sensation, of sadness, is like laughter. It is contagious. It can transfer its ethereal weight in words across the chasms of humanity, even if your eyes are closed. All you have to do is hear, more than the story, the audible tones and the delivery of each one of those tones.

In our culture, for some reason, the common reaction to locating tragedy is to cover your mouth. Like a shield we use our hands – to either block-out, or keep-in the terrible, harrowing sadness.


If eroticism is defined by an element of anticipation – then this is the most erotic situation I have ever engaged in. For I am in love with a woman I can never have.

She, nameless here, is a singer.

She sits on a chair in front of whole rooms full of people, animated like an elegant whirlwind – her arms cycling outward like a bird in flight while she sings. She is powerful in voice and incomprehensibly warm in spirit. Her eyes are sharp and soft and rounded and delving all at the same time. But it is what comes out and through her whistling lips that will make you disintegrate.

On the stage, her emotional heft is empowering in its terrifying beauty.

Everything, absolutely every note flows upward from her gut like an electrical current of sound, up and out of her mouth. This coupled with the fact that she possesses a nearly divine instinct for harmony and inflection makes her corner of any room heave with illumination in the way that a gas lantern glows in a once hushed cavern.

She is sultry in the most organic and honest of ways. As though she has no idea…

When I watch her sing, I keep my hand over my mouth. Shielding. Protecting. Immersing.

Because something tremendous has happened between us.


I cannot have her.

Last night she had her hand on my thigh as we talked. Last night she kissed me on the cheek, over and over. She touched me every time she passed. More than that she was watching me from across the room. As she sang on the stage.

All night long she paid me special attention. Because we are magnets. Because something happened.

When I arrived, I asked her how she was doing. She replied by saying that she was doing so much better now that I was here. She said that I made this little room so much larger. Louder.

She wrapped her arms around my neck. And she stood intently staring into my eyes, baited on every word. She said that she wants to talk more, but she had go sing first. She said that she wanted to talk more and more and more – but with me. Only with me.

I said give me five minutes with you, alone. Outside. Five minutes.

Her eyes said, I know. I know. I think that I want to tell you everything. I want to know what happened.

I say, this is mildly painful, I’ll have you know.

She says, pain is good, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Every time: She and I stand so close that we can smell each other. Every time I see her, I can feel her breath’s heat. And all of her insides have been soaked in dandelion perfume.

I think that I am in love with her. I think that I have been, since the first time she saw me. I cannot forget the first time I walked in that room and she was sitting on a stool, her legs crossed, and singing up to the skylights. I will not forget the way she looked at me. As though we knew each other, from somewhere a long, good time ago.

There are these moments, when she is singing, that her legs come uncrossed and they cycle in concert with her wing-like arms. Her thighs like mirrors, reflect the most sensual, heartbreaking hints as to what, possibly, she could taste like.

When she walks away from me, I lick my lips – and make my best guess. Then I put my hand up to my lips. To seal the scent, inside.


When she sings I am pinned back in my seat as though I am listening to the saddest story ever told. This when her words are redemptive. This when I can only smile when I watch her.

Her sounds are harrowing. They are the sounds of death and the dying. Love and the sky and watery bodies of tears. They are the sounds of laughter and children.

And, of my heart inflating and then bursting every time I see her.


In the back of the bar I close my eyes as I let my head fill with her voice, and I picture her opening her thighs like doors to the most erotic of hearts.

In the back of the bar I sit, in a space where she can see that I am watching.

In the back of the bar I sit, because she is married.

When I watch her on stage, I do so with my hand shielding my smiling mouth so her friends can’t see my incessant grin.

And while I am watching her on stage – I’m primarily watching her husband. Because when he looks away, I pay attention and take my time devouring her with my eyes.

Her husband shakes my hand when I arrive. Then he sits next to his wife on the stage. With his guitar in his hand, they play his songs. And they – the songs – are good. Maybe even great.

And not just because of her and that cataclysmically tragic voice.

When she leaves for the night, she kisses me on the cheek. As we walk in opposite directions down the sidewalk she blows me a kiss. Instead of reciprocating the gesture, I clutch hers from the air and seal it in my mouth.

I walk to my car with my hand as the lock to my words. Covering my mouth.

If eroticism is defined by an element of anticipation – then this is the most erotic situation I have ever engaged in.

I have no idea what happened: I am in love with a woman I can never have.

~ by The Provocateur on May 23, 2007.

5 Responses to “A Ballad”

  1. Ah, perfect, unattainable love… that way it can stay perfect. There is smething irresistable about artists, though – it’s the way they can slice through everything superficial to our emotional and gut reaction, and the way they offer, with their honesty and emotion, the possibility of an exchange; the promise of intimacy.

  2. How I feel your pain, my dear friend. Almost as deeply as you, almost as keenly. Not through any personal experience of my own, but through your words and the powerful emotions that moved you to write them. How I love the glimpses into your soul.

  3. the most painful trajedy of all.. to love someone you can never have.

  4. god, your words make me feel.

    your words make me feel.

    you steal my breath and make my eyes well with tears.

    you sting me right in the core.

    it’s only you that does this.

  5. Beautiful. Tragic. Wonderful.

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