It Takes Two Chocolates to Tango

— Renée Schell

The clarinet sidesteps its way toward Argentina.
Horn and bassoon lope through the rain forest,
capturing cacao beans with their dotted rhythms.
Surely I can hold the rose between my teeth
and strike a pose, but can I remember the steps?

From the heart-shaped box
the siren song of a fine truffle calls to me.
I open my mouth in response and—
the flute interrupts
in tight harmony with the oboe.

Staccato spices captivate my taste buds,
high notes ripple among the scented leaves.
Wistful and bittersweet,
bassoon and horn continue
their seductive stroll through dense trees.

They exhale chocolate vapor.
It hangs in the air, a rich suspension
of major seventh chords.
I breathe in. Quarter notes and butterfat.
But the music is restless and the chocolates
stare me down with desires of their own.
Tango otra vez, they plead. Tango por favor.

With aplomb they leap from the box,
dancing onto my waiting fingers.
They tempt me with their chili spice,
their hint of Earl Gray.

If I let one more
handmade morsel
melt to nothingness
on my tongue, will I remember
the steps? Will a dark-eyed stranger
lure me to his arms with a smoldering gaze?

The quintet reprises the stop and start drama
of promises kept, promises deferred.

I don’t have to go to South America to tango.

Written for the Mission Chamber Orchestra of San Jose, for their Noteworthy Desserts event. The poem introduced a performance of Michael Kibbe’s “Pink Flamingos: A Tango for Woodwind Quintet,” accompanied with chocolates from Schurra’s Fine Confections.

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