Finnish Opera

By Barbara Guest 1920–2006 Barbara Guest
Grass grew long in the story.

Pieces clung to bedclothes. In the night he believed he grew taller.   
Grass covered the dream of a serpent, eyes sunk in his head, tail of silk clover. The dream translated into silver tone. More serpent heads and the   
dream turned into an opera.

It was the opera that made the dreamer famous. Location of opera could be   
in any country, could be Antarctica, more likely Finland, where they believe   
in silk clover, it is gold in a land of starved desire for summer.

The opera had a clover leaf copied in porcelain by Aalto, the famous   
designer, who sewed the clover leaf into a white curtain. He designed a   
window for the man when he looks out to sea in his serpent costume.

This opera that begins with a dream traveled   
to Rome and Zagreb, traveled across continents, once by camel. The travels became more famous than   
the opera. People began to forget whether the grass really had grown long,   
and where the serpent came from.

The opera was called by another name and included a gold limousine.   
Somewhere in Oceania they added mermaid elves.

Barbara Guest, “Finnish Opera” from Miniatures and Other Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Barbara Guest. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Miniatures and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2002)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Barbara Guest 1920–2006

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Music, Theater & Dance

 Barbara  Guest


Barbara Guest rose to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of an informal group of writers known as the New York school of poets whose membership included Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. Their innovative approach to poetry was influenced by modern art, especially surrealism and abstract expressionism. Guest drew on her own background in art (she worked for Art News magazine in the 1950s) to create poetry . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Music, Theater & Dance

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.