Kristina Marie Darling

The New Conductor
The old opera house had been turned into a discotheque, but no one bothered to remove the red velvet curtains, the gilt cornices, or the great plaster cherubs above each doorway. When the musicians arrived, dressed in sleek tuxedos and red bow-ties, only the building's smallest embellishments seemed familiar. Apparently a new conductor has taken the podium, one of the violinists mused. Then as the dancing began, and a cold white light shone above them, they all sensed a coup d'etat had taken effect since they'd last performed. And that only the concierge, with her long white hair, knew when the old conductor would return.

The Forest, or, The Musician Dreams a Change of Seasons
He begins by playing the saddest song he knows, an elegy for each dark red leaf rustling on the trees. And out of it drifts a woman's voice, ringing like an iron bell into the cold blue night. Crooning as if to postpone a change of seasons with her low madrigal, its muted crescendos, the instrument's stuttering fugue. Yet when the frost sets in, every note becomes an ode, echoing through parched foliage. Within that music, a wilderness. The forest's dried canopy heaves and sways.

Kristina Marie Darling is a graduate of Washington University, where she received both an undergraduate degree in English and a master's degree in American Culture Studies. Eight chapbooks of her work have been published, among them Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006), The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006), and Night Music (BlazeVox Books, 2008). A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems appear in such journals as The Mid-America Poetry Review, Pear Noir, Illya's Honey, Big City Lit, and Janus Head: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. Reviews and other criticism have also been published in issues of The Boston Review, Shenandoah, The Colorado Review, New Letters, Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing, and other periodicals. Recent awards include residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, the Centrum Foundation, and the Prairie Center of the Arts, as well as scholarships to attend the Squaw Valley Writers Conference and the Ropewalk Writers Retreat.

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